The government increased efforts to protect child trafficking victims and made limited efforts to identify and assist adult victims. During the reporting period, the government identified and referred 370 potential child trafficking victims to OCPM for initial care, compared with 223 in the previous reporting period. OCPM officers and the police proactively identified potential child victims through patrols of high-risk areas such as borders, bus stations, and large markets. In February 2018, the Ministry of Interior, in partnership with an international organization, sought to harmonize OCPM, civil society, and police efforts by establishing formal standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the referral of vulnerable children, including potential victims of trafficking, to protective services. Prior to adoption of the formal SOPs, MSAM, OCPM, the ministries of justice and foreign affairs, international organizations, and NGOs developed a system to assist, repatriate, and reintegrate victims of child trafficking. As part of this process, OCPM assumed initial custody of child trafficking victims in Benin and provided temporary shelter in its Cotonou facility that could house up to 160 children (80 boys and 80 girls).
The OCPM shelter offered child victims legal, medical, and psychological assistance, and served as a transit facility for potential child trafficking victims while their cases were processed prior to placement in long-term shelters. After an OCPM interview and assessment, victims were referred to a network of NGO shelters throughout the country. Trafficking-specific services were not available for adult victims, although they received care under the auspices of programs to assist victims of other forms of abuse. In January 2018, government officials at Cotonou airport identified two Ghanaian women traveling to potentially exploitative conditions, interviewed them, and worked with the Ghanaian embassy to ensure safe repatriation.
OCPM assisted foreign trafficking victims, predominantly minors, before repatriating them to their home countries. The government conducted repatriations of foreign victims in conjunction with an international NGO and the assistance of embassies or consulates of victims’ countries of origin. During the reporting period, the government maintained support for OCPM’s anti-trafficking work by contributing 19.2 million West African CFA francs (FCFA) ($34,140). This support included services for all children received in its shelter, including trafficking victims. The bilateral anti-trafficking cooperation agreement to facilitate law enforcement data sharing and repatriation coordination between Benin and Gabon remained pending, and no actions were taken under the 2011 Cooperation Agreement between Benin and the Republic of the Congo. Multilateral anti-trafficking cooperation agreements to increase law enforcement coordination on child trafficking cases between Benin, Togo, and Nigeria remained pending as well. Beninese law did not provide legal alternatives to removal of trafficking victims to countries in which victims would face retribution or hardship, although cases involving foreign child trafficking victims were considered on an ad hoc basis.