NIGER: Tier 2 Watch List
Niger is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Caste-based slavery practices continue primarily in the northern part of the country and affect some 44,000 people. Victims from Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, and Togo are exploited in sex and labor trafficking in Niger. Nigerien boys are subjected to forced labor, including forced begging, within the country and in Mali and Nigeria by corrupt marabouts (religious instructors). Corrupt marabouts or loosely organized clandestine networks may also place Nigerien girls into domestic servitude or commercial sex. Nigerien children are subjected to forced labor in gold, salt, trona, and gypsum mines; agriculture; stone quarries; and manufacturing within the country. Girls are subjected to sex trafficking along the border with Nigeria, sometimes with the complicity of their families. In the Tahoua region of Niger, girls born into slavery are forced to marry men who buy them as “fifth wives” and subject them to forced labor and sexual servitude, a practice known as wahaya; their children are born into slave castes. “Fifth wives” are typically sold between the age of 9 and 11 years old. Traditional chiefs play a primary role in this form of exploitation, either through enslaving children in their own families or arranging “marriages” for other powerful individuals. Some girls in forced marriages may be exploited in commercial sex after fleeing these nominal unions. Nigerien girls reportedly travel abroad to enter into “marriages” with Nigerian men or foreign citizens living in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and are subjected to domestic servitude in these countries. In Algeria, Nigerien children were forced to beg and Nigerien women and girls were vulnerable to sex trafficking.
Nigerien women and children are recruited from Niger and transported to Nigeria, North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe where they are subjected to domestic servitude, sex trafficking, or forced labor in agriculture or animal herding. Some migrants were suspected to be traffickers, particularly Nigerien migrants to Algeria. Traffickers operated primarily small, freelance operations in loosely organized networks of individuals, including some marabouts. Some women have been accused of managing trafficking rings, although they may have been trafficking victims themselves. Some women are complicit in the exploitation of children, accepting payment from traffickers who run forced, street-begging operations. Niger is a transit country for men, women, and children from West and Central Africa migrating to North Africa and Western Europe, where some are subjected to forced labor or sex trafficking. Additionally, some migrants are subjected to forced labor in Niger as domestic servants, mechanics, welders, laborers in mines and on farms, or as staff in bars and restaurants. The terrorist organization Boko Haram forcibly recruited Nigerien children during the reporting period. Corrupt law enforcement and border officials have accepted bribes from traffickers to facilitate the transportation of victims into and throughout the country.
The Government of Niger does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these measures, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Niger is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. The government did not report the number of investigations, prosecutions, and convictions or the number of victims identified or referred for protective services during the reporting period. NGOs provided shelter to 58 trafficking victims and the government provided in-kind assistance to NGOs and international organizations. Although the government trained law enforcement officers, civil society activists, and judges on the national trafficking law and victim protection and adopted a national action plan, it decreased efforts to prevent human trafficking.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR NIGER:
Vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, including those guilty of slavery and complicit government officials, using the anti-trafficking law; train law enforcement and judicial officials throughout the country on the anti-trafficking law in coordination with NGOs and international organizations; develop systematic procedures for the proactive identification of trafficking victims—especially among vulnerable populations, such as children exploited in prostitution, girls born into slave castes, and children at worksites—and their subsequent referral to care; train law enforcement officials on victim identification procedures; provide financial or in-kind support to NGO partners providing victim care; increase penalties in the law for trafficking of adults and remove the ability to impose a fine in lieu of jail time for forced labor crimes; increase the quantity and quality of services available to victims; increase efforts to rescue victims of traditional slavery practices and adult victims; initiate law enforcement investigations into suspected cases of local officials colluding with traffickers or accepting bribes to obstruct criminal investigations of trafficking crimes, particularly traditional slavery; and continue to raise public awareness about the anti-trafficking law—specifically targeting vulnerable populations, religious leaders, and traditional chiefs and encouraging victims to exercise their legal rights.
The government decreased anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts; the government did not report the number of investigations, prosecutions, or convictions during the reporting period. Order No. 2012-86 on Combating Trafficking in Persons, enacted in 2010, prohibits all forms of trafficking, including slavery and practices similar to slavery. This law prescribes sufficiently stringent punishments of five to 10 years’ imprisonment for committing trafficking offenses against adults and 10 to 30 years’ imprisonment when the victim is a child. Penalties for child trafficking are commensurate with those prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape, but those prescribed for trafficking of adults are not. The law specifically prohibits exploitative begging. Other statutes prohibit certain forms of trafficking; the penal code prohibits slavery, procurement of a child for prostitution, and the encouragement of, or profiting from, child begging in articles 270 (as amended in 2003), 292-293, and 181, respectively. The labor code, enacted in September 2012, outlaws forced labor. The penal code’s prescribed penalties of 10 to 30 years’ imprisonment for slavery offenses are sufficiently stringent and reflect the serious nature of the crime. The penalties prescribed in the labor code for forced labor are not sufficiently stringent as the law allows for the option of a fine in lieu of jail time, which does not reflect the serious nature of this crime.
The government did not report the number of investigations, prosecutions, and convictions during the reporting period, contrasted with 144 investigations of trafficking offenses, five prosecutions of defendants, and five convictions of traffickers during the previous reporting period. The government did not make progress in 2015 in ending impunity for marabouts who force children to beg or traditional chiefs who facilitate the enslavement of children. There is a lack of access to justice for victims, as they were often uninformed about their legal rights and lacked the necessary capacities and resources to seek punitive action against their exploiters. There were no reported developments in pending slavery cases, some of which have reportedly been ongoing for years. NGOs reported the government was slow to prosecute trafficking crimes.
In 2015, the government trained 140 law enforcement officers, civil society activists, and judges on the national trafficking law and victim protection in Niamey. There were no investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials for complicity in trafficking or trafficking-related criminal activities.
The government decreased protection efforts; the government did not report the number of victims it identified or referred for protective services during the reporting period. There were no specialized services available in Niger for adult victims or victims of hereditary slavery. Officials did not receive training nor were there formal written procedures for identifying victims and referring them to protective services. NGOs provided shelter to 58 trafficking victims, and the government provided in-kind assistance to NGOs and international organizations in the form of temporary shelter, food, and primary health care to an unknown number of child victims. Authorities did not employ systematic measures to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as women and girls born into traditional slave castes or children at worksites. The National Coordination Commission for the Fight against Trafficking in Persons (CNCLTP) did not report how many victims it identified during the reporting period. The government relied almost exclusively on NGOs and international organizations to provide services to victims, although NGOs’ capacity to provide shelter or long-term services to victims was inadequate; their primary role was often to facilitate victim repatriation or family reunification.
While the government reported it would encourage adult victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases, victims’ lack of awareness of the legal options available to them, fears of retaliation by traffickers, and lack of adequate shelter and protective services impeded their efforts to do so. Victims of forced labor and caste-based servitude were able to file civil and criminal complaints simultaneously. The government did not have any reintegration or rehabilitation programs for children forcibly recruited by the terrorist organization Boko Haram. There were no reports of the government detaining, fining, or jailing trafficking victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking. The law includes provisions to ensure foreign victims would be safe upon return to their countries of origin and provides for the possibility of granting victims legal status in Niger, including the ability to obtain employment.
The government decreased efforts to prevent human trafficking. The CNCLTP continued to serve as the coordinating body for the government’s anti-trafficking efforts, and the National Agency for the Fight Against Trafficking in Persons was the government’s permanent implementing body to address trafficking in persons. The government adopted a national action plan, which was developed through inter-ministerial cooperation and in partnership with civil society organizations. Senior officials publicly recognized the problem of human trafficking and Niger’s policies to combat it at the opening of several anti-trafficking information and education campaigns during the reporting period. The government did not punish labor recruiters or brokers who recruited workers with knowingly fraudulent offers of employment or job placement. The government took no discernible measures to address the demand for forced labor or commercial sex acts. Bylaws governing the armed forces require troops to receive anti-trafficking training prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions, although there is no evidence the government implemented such training during the reporting period. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.