FRANCE: Tier 1
France is a destination, transit, and a limited source country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Foreign victims from Eastern Europe, West and North Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Sex trafficking networks controlled by Bulgarians, Nigerians, Romanians, Chinese, and French citizens force women into prostitution through debt bondage, physical force, and psychological coercion, including the invocation of voodoo and drug addiction. The number of children, including students and foreigners, exploited in prostitution has increased in recent years. Migrants from Africa and the Middle East, particularly women and children, are vulnerable to sex and labor trafficking in Calais. Some migrants who could not pay their smugglers are held in debt bondage. Reports indicate children, primarily from Romania, West and North Africa, and the Middle East are victims of sex trafficking in France. The Government of France estimates the majority of the 20,000 people in France’s commercial sex trade, about 90 percent of whom are foreign, are likely trafficking victims. Young women in French suburbs are vulnerable to sex trafficking. Online-advertised prostitution organized by Russians and Bulgarians has increased, along with classified ads posted by organized networks controlled by Romanians, Bulgarians, Nigerians, and Brazilians; trafficking victims are likely involved in activities described in these ads. Women and children from Suriname are victims of sex trafficking in French Guyana. Roma and unaccompanied minors in France are vulnerable to forced begging and forced theft. Women and children are subjected to domestic servitude, mostly in cases in which families exploit relatives brought from Africa to work in their households. Trafficking networks have expanded to operate in large towns outside of Paris, including Lille, Marseille, and Nice. In 2014, the French government launched an investigation into allegations that approximately 14 French soldiers stationed in the Central African Republic forced boy refugees to perform sex acts for money and food.
The Government of France fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government did not report anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts for the reporting period. Although it identified victims and continued to provide protective services for sex and labor trafficking victims, specialized services for children remained unavailable, and some services were only available for victims who cooperated with law enforcement. The government released its first annual public report detailing its anti-trafficking efforts and continued to partner with destination countries to address child sex tourism by French nationals.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FRANCE:
As stated in France’s national action plan, expand available information on law enforcement efforts against human trafficking, including data on the investigation, prosecution, conviction, and sentencing of traffickers; provide specialized care for child victims of trafficking and strengthen victim protection for child victims of forced begging and theft; provide care for all victims regardless of cooperation with law enforcement; improve victims’ access to restitution; standardize residence permit issuance policies and consider waiving permit fees for all trafficking victims; screen women and children arrested for soliciting or theft for trafficking indicators; implement a national awareness campaign; and provide anti-trafficking training or guidance to diplomats.
The government did not report comprehensive anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts for the reporting period. France prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons through article 225-4 of its penal code, which prescribes maximum penalties of between seven years’ and life imprisonment for trafficking offenses. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape. The government did not report the number of investigations conducted in 2015; in 2014, authorities conducted 204 criminal investigations for sex trafficking. The government did not report the number of prosecutions or convictions in 2014 or 2015; in 2013, authorities convicted 127 traffickers under article 225-4. The government also convicted 23 offenders for the prostitution of children and eight traffickers for forced begging in 2013.
The government confirmed several cases in which traffickers were sentenced to multiple years of imprisonment, including a case of a complicit official. In November 2015, the Paris criminal court sentenced 10 individuals, including a police captain, to between 18 months’ to five years’ imprisonment for operating a trafficking network in three massage parlors throughout Paris. The head of the network, a Thai woman, was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, fined 100,000 euros ($114,000), and banned from French territory. In June 2015, the Inter-Regional Specialized Court of Marseille sentenced six members of a Nigerian prostitution network to two to four years’ imprisonment with fines of 15,000 euros ($17,000) each. The traffickers forced 20 Nigerian women into sex trafficking. During the reporting period, in cooperation with NGOs, the Central Office for Combating Human Trafficking (OCRTEH) trained police in identification of trafficking victims. The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) provided training to prosecutors and judges on the application of the anti-trafficking statute in March 2016.
The government maintained protection efforts. The government identified 92 trafficking victims in 2015. In 2014, the government identified 467 victims of sex trafficking and aggravated pimping. The government had a formal procedure for identifying victims and an NGO-run referral mechanism. The Ministry of Social Affairs, the Ministry of Health, and the City of Paris provided funding for the Ac-Se system, an NGO-managed network of 51 NGO-run shelters assisting adult victims of sex and labor trafficking. Ac-Se assisted 92 trafficking victims in 2015, compared with 52 in 2014, by providing them with shelter, legal, medical, and psychological services. Eighty-seven were sex trafficking victims and five were labor trafficking victims. Seventy percent of these victims were Nigerian. The government repatriated 13 victims to multiple countries. Ac-Se received 223,000 euros ($243,000) in 2015, compared with 205,000 euros ($223,000) in 2014. Local governments provided French language classes to victims, and some victims could qualify for subsidized housing and job training programs. The government provided victims 350 euros ($400) as an initial stipend, and 100 euros ($110) per month thereafter. The central and municipal governments also partially funded the operation of a shelter in Paris and a small number of emergency apartments external to the Ac-Se system. Child protective services placed child trafficking victims into generalized children’s shelters where there was no specialized care for victims of trafficking. The government continued to operate a hotline for children in abusive situations, including trafficking. Ac-Se operated a hotline that received an estimated 900 calls in 2015; approximately 50 callers were referred to the Ac-Se network of care providers.
The government had an NGO-run referral program to transfer victims detained, arrested, or placed in protective custody by law enforcement authorities to institutions that provided short-term care. The government also provided witness protection services for victims who worked with police to prosecute traffickers. NGOs assessed the referral process worked well when victims were willing to cooperate with law enforcement authorities; however, victims unwilling to cooperate did not receive assistance. French law provided for a 30-day reflection period for identified victims, regardless of whether they chose to cooperate with law enforcement or not; however, some authorities were not familiar with the reflection period and did not offer it. Victims were eligible for temporary residence permits, provided they cooperated with police investigations. The permits were typically valid for one year and were renewable every six months. Victims who obtained residency were able to work or leave the country during trial proceedings. These permits were available during the duration of the criminal process and automatically became permanent upon an offender’s conviction. In cases in which offenders were not convicted, local prefects had the discretion to grant permanent residence cards to victims. NGOs previously reported highly inconsistent practices among prefects in the issuance of residence permits, particularly if the victims had past convictions for prostitution. Some victims found it easier to apply for and obtain asylum, as the process involved no cost and no requirement to participate in a prosecution. Victims were eligible to receive restitution through the Crime Victims Compensation Program; the compensation request process often took several years to complete, and many victims had requests in progress; between 2007 and 2013, the fund provided compensation to 24 victims. The MOJ partnered with Ac-Se to train front-line responders, including labor inspectors and social workers, on the identification and referral of trafficking victims. The Ministry of Economy and Finance distributed pocket-sized cards to border police and NGOs with instructions on how to identify trafficking victims. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the City of Paris produced a DVD for the country’s law enforcement, immigration, and social services personnel to provide guidance on victim identification.
The government maintained anti-trafficking prevention efforts. The National Consultative Commission for Human Rights (CNCDH), an independent advisory body of the government, released the first annual public report covering the government’s anti-trafficking efforts in 2014 through May 2015. The government designated the CNCDH as national rapporteur in compliance with the 2014-2016 national anti-trafficking action plan. The government did not implement a national anti-trafficking awareness campaign. However, the government funded programs through airlines and tourism operators describing the penalties for child sex tourism and funded poster and pamphlet campaigns by NGO partners to reduce the demand for child sex tourism. Tourism and hospitality students in France were obligated to take coursework on preventing child sex tourism. OCRTEH, in partnership with a hotel group, organized seminars to teach hotel personnel how to identify cases of trafficking and provided contact information for the local police for increased coordination. French police conducted an unknown number of international investigations of child sex tourism. The French government provided anti-trafficking training to all peacekeeping troops prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.