The government decreased efforts to identify and protect trafficking victims. The government identified and referred four sex trafficking victims to care—the lowest number of identified victims in five years—compared with identifying and referring 91 potential trafficking victims to care the previous reporting period. NAATIP referred the four identified victims, three women and one girl, to the Department of Social Welfare (DSW) for care. In partnership with an international organization, NAATIP assisted repatriating one victim to her home country where the international organization is providing care. Law enforcement had standard operating procedures (SOPs) to proactively identify potential trafficking victims amongst vulnerable populations, including unaccompanied minors and homeless children; however, the SOPs were limited in scope and officials did not consistently use them. While law enforcement referred women and children exploited in commercial sex to DSW for care, officials did not screen adults in prostitution for sex trafficking. Some border control agents had knowledge of trafficking and screened for trafficking among adults traveling with several minors.
DSW operated a shelter for trafficking victims, abandoned children, and victims of domestic violence. DSW allocated only enough support to the shelter for salaries and provided food every three months; DSW allocated two million dalasi ($40,000) to the shelter and paid the salaries of 38 staff, the same as 2017. The shelter offered basic services such as housing, medical care, and limited counseling to children and women; authorities did not allow victims to leave without a chaperone. The shelter lacked professional social workers trained to assist trafficking victims. Shelter security was weak; an international organization reported unauthorized individuals entered the shelter and intimidated four trafficking victims residing there. The victims were pressured by unknown individuals to drop their testimony against their Nigerian traffickers. The three adult victims ran away from the shelter and their whereabouts were unknown. The fourth victim, a minor, was repatriated back to her home in Nigeria with the assistance of an international organization. The shelter could assist Gambian victims exploited abroad after their repatriation, as well as both foreign and domestic victims. An international organization assisted the government to repatriate trafficking victims from Lebanon identified in previous reporting periods. During the reporting period, the government also secured funding from an international organization for trafficking victims repatriated from Lebanon in 2016; the victims received a reintegration package equivalent to 50,000 dalasi ($1,000) to be used for vocational training. NAATIP also partnered with an NGO to secure funding from an international organization for Gambian trafficking victims identified in Lebanon, Kuwait, and Egypt in previous reporting periods for reintegration support. DSW also operated a drop-in center for street children. Shelters were concentrated around the capital, leaving some victims in rural areas without access to assistance.
The 2007 anti-trafficking law allowed foreign victims to obtain temporary residence visas for the duration of legal proceedings, but there were no other legal alternatives provided in cases in which foreign trafficking victims removed to their countries of origin may have faced hardship or retribution. Victims could obtain restitution and file civil suits against their traffickers, but there were no reports any such cases were filed during the reporting period. An international organization alleged police detained a potential trafficking victim for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit and law enforcement did not screen for trafficking when detaining adults in prostitution, among other vulnerable groups, so trafficking victims could have remained unidentified in the law enforcement system.