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2017-2021 ARCHIVED CONTENT

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BURKINA FASO: Tier 2

The Government of Burkina Faso does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore Burkina Faso remained on Tier 2. These efforts included identifying and referring to care more potential victims, including children forced to work in artisanal mining and children exploited in forced begging; adding more labor inspectors that continued to remove children from exploitative situations; prosecuting and convicting a trafficker posing as a Quranic teacher to exploit children in forced begging; and engaging with religious leaders to denounce corrupt Quranic teachers exploiting children in forced begging. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government did not report comprehensive law enforcement data. The anti-trafficking committee did not meet or conduct any activities during the reporting period. The government did not coordinate with law enforcement during a campaign to remove vulnerable children from the streets. Efforts to identify and refer adult victims to services remained weak. Despite identifying 2,000 potential child forced labor victims in artisanal gold mining, police did not report criminally prosecuting any trafficking cases within the exploitative mining sector.

PRIORITIZED RECOMMENDATIONS

Increase efforts to vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers—including corrupt Quranic teachers and traffickers posing as Quranic teachers who exploit children in forced begging, and complicit officials—respecting due process and sentence convicted traffickers to significant prison terms, as prescribed in the 2008 anti-trafficking law. • Strengthen the system for collecting law enforcement and victim identification data. • Facilitate training of law enforcement, prosecutors, and judicial officials on investigating and prosecuting trafficking cases, including cases that do not involve movement. • Improve coordination among the anti-trafficking and child protection committees by providing funding or in-kind resources, convening regularly, and sharing data. • Increase the availability of shelter and services for all victims, including adults. • Investigate recruitment agencies suspected of fraudulently recruiting women for exploitation abroad. • Increase funding and resources for police and security force units charged with investigating trafficking crimes. • Increase funding and in-kind support, as feasible, for victim services, including long-term services and social reintegration. • Train law enforcement to identify victims among vulnerable populations, including women in prostitution and children in agriculture and mining, and refer them to protective services. • Work with NGOs to raise awareness of trafficking, especially forced begging in Quranic schools and trafficking that does not involve movement. • Draft a national action plan to combat trafficking.

PROSECUTION

The government maintained uneven law enforcement efforts and did not report consistent law enforcement statistics. Articles 511-1 to 511-5 of the penal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of five to 10 years’ imprisonment and fines of 1 million to 5 million West African CFA francs (FCFA) ($1,760-$8,790) for offenses involving a victim over the age of 15, and 11 to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 2 million to 10 million FCFA ($3,520-$17,590) for those involving a victim 15 years of age or younger. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.

The government did not report comprehensive law enforcement data, and the data reported covered different but overlapping timeframes than the previous year, making it incomparable. With data from two regions, the National Police opened six new investigations involving 11 suspects between September 2017 and May 2018. With data from 12 regions, courts prosecuted 71 trafficking cases and convicted 61 traffickers between September 2017 and May 2018. For comparison, during the previous year, the government reported data from March 2016 and March 2018; in that time period, the government reported investigating, prosecuting, and convicting 61 traffickers. The government continued to investigate the 78 investigations that began in 2016, including investigations into debt bondage, forced begging in Quranic schools, sex trafficking, and the fraudulent recruitment of more than 47 women for domestic servitude in various Middle Eastern countries; the government began prosecuting the fraudulent recruitment case during the reporting period. The government prosecuted and convicted one Quranic teacher who forced or coerced children to beg. He received a 24-month prison sentence and a fine of 1.2 million FCFA ($2,110). Following the identification of 2,000 child laborers, including potential child forced labor victims in artisanal gold mining, the government initiated an investigation. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses; however, trafficking-related corruption remained a concern. In the past, authorities alleged some officials exerted pressure over police and judiciary to drop labor trafficking cases, especially in the mining sector. The Ministry of Women, National Solidarity, Family, and Humanitarian Action (Ministry of Women) trained 60 judges and law enforcement officials on identification and referral procedures for victims of gender-based violence, including trafficking.

PROTECTION

The government increased efforts to identify trafficking victims and maintained efforts to protect victims. With partial data from 30 of 45 provinces from the full reporting period, the government reported identifying 851 trafficking victims and 2,844 potential trafficking victims; this was a significant increase from 1,750 potential victims identified in 45 provinces the previous reporting period. Of these 2,844 potential victims, the Ministry of Women identified 1,350 vulnerable children living on the street, including talibés (Quranic students) exploited in forced begging. Separately, the government identified and removed 2,000 child laborers from artisanal gold mining sites, some of whom might have been trafficking victims, and provided food, clothing, shelter, health care, and legal assistance to all of these children. In August 2018, the Ministry of Women launched a campaign to remove all vulnerable children from the street, including talibés exploited in forced begging. Through the campaign, the government identified and provided care to 1,350 vulnerable children, including potential trafficking victims. The government provided all children identified during the campaign shelter and services including family reintegration, counseling, and medical services as needed. However, the Ministry of Women did not involve law enforcement in the campaign, limiting prosecutions of traffickers as a result of identifying potential trafficking victims. An international organization provided assistance and repatriation to 24 additional trafficking victims, including nine children, from Nigeria. The government had standard victim identification and referral procedures; in regions where authorities and front-line responders had been trained, they implemented such procedures effectively. In addition, the government validated and disseminated throughout the country a case management guide for law enforcement and social services personnel to facilitate the uniform referral of child victims of crime, including trafficking, to care. The government coordinated with an international organization to screen for trafficking indicators among refugees and IDPs.

The government operated and staffed two shelters for victims of crime that trafficking victims could access in Ouagadougou; the shelter was open 24 hours per day and could accommodate long-term stays for both adults and children; the government referred an unknown number of trafficking victims to the shelters during the reporting period, and they received shelter, food, and medical assistance. Outside of the capital, the government operated 27 regional transit centers for victims of crime in 13 regions that could provide psychological, social, and food assistance. These offices provided short-term services, but usually not shelter, to an unknown number of Burkinabe and foreign child trafficking victims; the offices only operated during weekly business hours and when they had sufficient funding. In 2018, the government allocated approximately 8.5 million FCFA ($14,950) to victim protection services; in 2017, the government and NGOs disbursed 61 million FCFA ($107,270) to the transit centers in addition to the funding the government provided for the shelter and office staffs’ salaries. The protection offices relied heavily on local NGOs and international organizations for the majority of support. When trafficking victims outside of Ouagadougou required shelter, authorities and NGOs nearly always placed victims with host families or an NGO; the government placed 31 child victims temporarily with foster families. Outside of Ouagadougou, there were no shelters or services specifically for adults; however, regional transit centers could accommodate adults when necessary. Long-term care for all victims remained inadequate. The government acknowledged victim services were insufficient, and service providers lacked the funding and resources to support victim protection, rehabilitation, and reintegration, which resulted in many victims being subjected to re-trafficking. The 2015 law on the prevention and repression of violence against women and girls mandated measures for victim support, including the establishment of free emergency integrated support centers to offer comprehensive support services for women and girl victims of violence, including sex trafficking, and the creation of a government support fund for victims; the government reported an unknown number of trafficking victims received support from the fund during the reporting period. The government had one such center in operation during the reporting period and allocated 1 million FCFA ($1,760) to it in 2018, compared to 5 million FCFA ($8,790) allocated in 2017. The ministry did not report how many victims it referred to this center during the reporting period.

The government encouraged victims to participate in trials against their traffickers by providing protection through the Ministry of Women, a regional human rights office, or foreign victims’ embassies. The 2008 anti-trafficking law contained provisions to protect victims’ identities and encourage their participation in prosecutions by allowing for closed sessions to hear victim testimony, excusing victims from appearing at hearings, and for social workers to accompany child victims. The government did not report if it utilized these provisions during the reporting period. The government did not report if victims could legally file civil suits against their traffickers or otherwise obtain restitution. Foreign victims who faced hardship or retribution in their country of origin could apply for asylum, but there were no reports trafficking victims applied for asylum during the reporting period. The government provided travel documents and facilitated the repatriation of nine Burkinabe child forced labor victims identified in Cote d’Ivoire. In collaboration with NGOs and international organizations, the government repatriated Burkinabe trafficking victims from Nigeria, Togo, Benin, and Cote d’Ivoire and provided shelter, food, medical care, psychological support, and family reunification. There were no reports of trafficking victims penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking; however, without uniform implementation of victim identification measures, including among vulnerable populations, some victims could have been left unidentified in the law enforcement system.

PREVENTION

The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. The Ministry of Women led the national anti-trafficking committee established to coordinate government anti-trafficking efforts. The committee did not meet during the reporting period and continued to lack the resources to plan future initiatives or take proactive measures to combat trafficking. The hybrid government-NGO working group for child protection functioned more effectively, so the government used this body to coordinate and share information on child protection and child trafficking issues. The anti-trafficking committee had sub-committees at the regional, provincial, and departmental levels to coordinate locally; subcommittees were composed of police, social workers, transit companies, NGOs, and other regional stakeholders, and they coordinated administrative efforts to support anti-trafficking law enforcement activities and victim protection and collected anti-trafficking data for the national committee’s annual report. These groups, also responsible for intercepting traffickers and identifying victims, lacked resources for day-to-day operations, but none of these groups met during the reporting period. The government did not report allocating any funding to these committees in the reporting period. Despite the existence of the various anti-trafficking committees and child protection working groups, inter-governmental communication on anti-trafficking issues remained lacking and inhibited progress. The government did not have or begin drafting an anti-trafficking national action plan. Prior to launching the campaign to remove vulnerable children from the street, the Minister of Women met with the Association of Quranic Teachers of Burkina Faso and secured their commitment to cease practices of forcing talibés to beg. The Ministry of Women conducted awareness-raising campaigns through radio programs, debates, and posters in five regions as well as holding capacity-building workshops on child protection, including child trafficking, in all regions of the country, and reported reaching 543,522 people, of which 23,712 were children.

The government identified and removed children from mining through its 2015-2019 national program to combat child labor in artisanal mines, although the government did not devote any funding or resources to implement other tenets of the plan. The Labor Inspectorate increased its number of labor inspectors from 169 to 255 during the reporting period, all of whom received basic training on child labor laws, although it did not report the number of inspections. In 2018, 2,000 child laborers, including potential child trafficking victims, were identified in artisanal mines during labor inspections and referred to care. The Ministry of Women continued to provide monitoring services and assistance to 20,000 freed child miners to reduce their vulnerability to additional child or forced child labor. The Ministry of Women continued to operate a hotline to report cases of violence against children, including trafficking. The hotline operated every day from 7:00am to 10:00pm and received 7,312 calls during the reporting period; 196 trafficking victims were identified as a result of calls to the hotline. The government provided vocational training for the social reintegration of young street children vulnerable to trafficking. The government did not report any policies to prevent the fraudulent recruitment or exploitation of Burkinabes abroad but did partner with an international organization to conduct an awareness campaign on the vulnerability to exploitation faced by irregular migrants. The government made some efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts and forced labor. The government did not report providing anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Burkina Faso, and traffickers exploit victims from Burkina Faso abroad. Traffickers promise families educational opportunities but instead force Burkinabe children to labor as farm hands, gold panners and washers in artisanal mines, street vendors, and domestic servants. In some cases, parents know their children will be exploited in domestic servitude but allow the exploitation to supplement the family income. An international organization estimates between 200,000-300,000 children work in artisanal mining sites, some of whom may be trafficking victims. Unscrupulous Quranic teachers force or coerce children to beg in Quranic schools, sometimes with parents’ knowledge. According to a 2016 survey, 9,313 children are living in the streets of Ouagadougou, of which 46 percent are talibés vulnerable to forced or coerced begging. During the reporting period, authorities in Senegal identified Burkinabe children exploited in forced begging. Girls are exploited in sex trafficking in Ouagadougou and in mining towns. Burkinabe children—including orphan street children—are transported to Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, and Niger for forced labor or sex trafficking. Burkinabe adult trafficking victims were identified in Mali and Tunisia during the reporting period. To a lesser extent, traffickers recruit women for ostensibly legitimate employment in Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and—to a lesser extent—Europe and subsequently compel them into commercial sex. Burkinabe women are also exploited in domestic servitude in the Middle East. In 2018, an international organization repatriated approximately 588 Burkinabe adults from Libya, some of whom traffickers exploited in forced labor in construction and agriculture and sex trafficking in Libya, compared to 845 in 2017. As of April 2019, an international organization reported there were 145,000 IDPs in Burkina Faso as a result of instability due to terrorist attacks. Burkina Faso is a transit country for traffickers transporting children from Mali to Cote d’Ivoire and women and girls from Cote d’Ivoire to Saudi Arabia, and it is a transit county for Ghanaian migrants traveling to Libya and Italy, some of whom are trafficking victims. Children from neighboring countries, including Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria, are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Women from other West African countries are fraudulently recruited for employment in Burkina Faso and subsequently subjected to sex trafficking, forced labor in restaurants, or domestic servitude. Nigerian girls are exploited in sex trafficking in Burkina Faso. In past years, authorities have identified Nepalese traffickers subjecting Tibetan women to sex trafficking in Burkina Faso and Sri Lankan citizens transiting Burkina Faso allegedly en route to forced labor in a third country.

U.S. Department of State

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