EQUATORIAL GUINEA: Tier 3
Equatorial Guinea is a source country for children subjected to sex trafficking and a destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor. The majority of trafficking victims are exploited in the cities of Malabo, Bata, and Mongomo, where burgeoning construction and economic activity funded by oil wealth have contributed to increases in the demand for cheap labor and prostitution. Equatoguinean girls are exploited in the sex trade in these cities, often by foreigners. Children from nearby countries—primarily Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, Togo, and Gabon—may be subjected to forced labor as domestic workers, market laborers, vendors, and launders. Women from Cameroon, Benin, and other neighboring countries are recruited for work in Equatorial Guinea and subsequently subjected to forced labor or forced prostitution. Significant numbers of Chinese women migrate to Equatorial Guinea for work or to engage in prostitution, and some are subject to passport confiscation, increasing their vulnerability to forced labor. Sub-contractor staff in the oil services and construction sectors from other parts of Africa, Asia and the Americas are regularly subjected to passport confiscation and, in some instances, forced labor. General corruption and complicity by government officials in trafficking-related offenses were common during the reporting period.
The Government of Equatorial Guinea does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. However, during the reporting period, the government demonstrated a renewed interest in combating trafficking in persons and took a number of important steps to begin addressing the crime. The government adopted a national action plan focused on awareness-raising, conducted three multi-day trainings to increase victim identification and case investigation techniques for over 200 law enforcement officials, and dedicated funding to support the trainings. Despite these initial steps, the government did not make efforts to identify or protect trafficking victims or prosecute traffickers, despite having a 2004 anti-trafficking law that prohibits all forms of trafficking and mandates provision of services to victims. The government continued to deport undocumented migrants without screening them to determine whether they were victims of trafficking or referring them to assistance services.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR EQUATORIAL GUINEA:
Use the 2004 anti-trafficking law to prosecute and convict trafficking offenders and complicit officials; develop formal procedures to identify trafficking victims, especially among child laborers, undocumented immigrants, women in prostitution, and children exploited for commercial sex; train social workers, law enforcement, and immigration officials in the use of trafficking victim identification and referral procedures; dedicate funding to shelter and protect trafficking victims and develop a formal system to refer victims to such care; develop and implement standard operating procedures for screening foreigners before deportation to ensure trafficking victims are provided appropriate care and safe, voluntary repatriation; develop and implement procedures for law enforcement officials to systematically notify embassies when their nationals have been detained; revive the inter-ministerial anti-trafficking commission and dedicate resources to implement the national action plan to combat trafficking in persons; research the extent and nature of the crime within the country; and launch a nationwide anti-trafficking public awareness campaign.
The government increased its training of officials, but did not make any other anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. The 2004 Law on the Smuggling of Migrants and Trafficking in Persons prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes penalties of 10 to 15 years’ imprisonment, punishments that are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Between September 2015 and February 2016, the government conducted three multi-day trainings to raise awareness about trafficking generally, as well as increase government officials’ ability to identify victims and investigate cases; 215 attendees, most of whom were law enforcement officers and other government officials, participated in the trainings. The government did not maintain law enforcement statistics and did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of any suspected trafficking offenders, including government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses. General corruption and official complicity in trafficking-related offenses were common.
The government did not make efforts to protect trafficking victims and did not identify or refer any victims to protective services. Although the 2004 anti-trafficking law mandates the government provide legal assistance, psychological and medical care, lodging, food, access to education, training, and employment opportunities to trafficking victims, it did not provide these services. Law enforcement authorities did not have procedures to identify trafficking victims nor did they make efforts to refer victims to organizations providing care. The government penalized victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking. The government routinely detained foreign nationals, including trafficking victims, at police stations for periods of several days to several months, and seldom notified their embassies of their detention or deportation. In many of these cases, police and border officials solicited bribes from detainees and deported those who did not pay; the overwhelming majority of those detained were young men, though children and women were also sometimes detained and deported. The government did not provide foreign trafficking victims legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they might face retribution or hardship.
The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. The government broadcasted its anti-trafficking trainings on television and radio programs, as well as on the government’s official website, in an effort to raise awareness among the general public. The government also adopted and began implementing a national action plan for 2016, with a primary focus on awareness raising. The government dedicated the entire amount of funding allocated towards national action plan implementation to the three training events. The Inter-Ministerial Commission to Combat Trafficking in Persons remained inactive. The government did not implement any programs to address forced child labor or identify any child labor victims, despite having 13 labor inspectors dedicated to documenting labor infractions. The government implemented a new regulation requiring all commercial sex establishments to register and provide contracts to their workers in an attempt to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts and exploitation within the sex industry. It did not undertake any discernible measures to reduce the demand for forced labor during the year. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.