Burkina Faso - United States Department of State
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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 collaborating with international organizations to train officials on child trafficking and protecting children in violent conflict, implementing a new agreement with Cote d’Ivoire, and adopting multiple national strategy documents that would address child trafficking. Despite also being responsible for managing a complex humanitarian response in which the number of IDPs increased more than fivefold over the year, the Ministry of Women coordinated the second phase of a program to remove vulnerable children from the streets, including forced begging victims. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Due to the justice sector being overburdened with terrorism-related cases, the government did not report investigating, prosecuting, or convicting any trafficking cases or other cases not related to terrorism. Efforts to identify and provide care to adult trafficking victims remained weak. The anti-trafficking committee did not meet or conduct any activities during the reporting period. For the second year in a row, the Ministry of Women did not coordinate with law enforcement during a campaign to remove vulnerable children from the streets.

PRIORITIZED RECOMMENDATIONS:

Collaborate with international organizations and foreign donors to adopt a handover protocol for children associated with non-state armed groups and establish a reintegration program for those children.Increase efforts to vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers—including corrupt Quranic teachers who exploit children in forced begging and complicit officials—and sentence convicted traffickers to significant prison terms, as prescribed in the 2008 anti-trafficking law.Train law enforcement and military officials on the standard operating procedures to identify victims among vulnerable populations, including women in prostitution and children associated with non-state armed groups, and refer them to protective services.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.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.Work with NGOs to raise awareness of trafficking, especially forced begging in Quranic schools and trafficking that does 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.Draft, approve, and implement a national action plan to combat trafficking.

PROSECUTION

The government decreased overall law enforcement efforts but made some efforts to train officials. 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 one million to five million West African CFA francs (FCFA) ($1,720-$8,590) for offenses involving a victim over the age of 15, and 11 to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of two million to 10 million FCFA ($3,440-$17,180) 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. Due to increasing and continuous terrorist attacks, the judicial sector was overburdened and solely focused on terrorism-related cases. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions during the reporting period. As previously reported, between September 2017 and May 2018, the National Police opened six investigations involving 11 suspects (only two regions reported investigation data), and courts prosecuted 71 trafficking cases and convicted 61 traffickers (12 regions reported prosecution and conviction data). 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. In July 2018, a federal court in New York entered a default judgment against a former Burkina Faso diplomat who had been assigned to Burkina Faso’s Mission to the UN. In October 2019, the court awarded the plaintiff approximately $784,000. The plaintiff (the diplomat’s former domestic worker) had alleged, among other things, violations of the TVPA and federal and state labor laws after his employer allegedly forced him to work long hours under intolerable conditions. The judgment remained unpaid and the government did not report taking any actions to hold the diplomat accountable during the reporting period.

During the reporting period, the Ministry of Security trained 250 police officers and gendarmes on violence against children, including child trafficking, and the government conducted trainings in seven regions on child forced labor. In addition, the government provided technical support to NGOs and an international organization to host a workshop on preventing violence against children recruited and used by armed groups. To improve international cooperation on law enforcement and victim protection, the government signed a law enforcement cooperation agreement with Cote d’Ivoire in July 2019. In addition, the government signed a tripartite agreement on transnational child trafficking with Togo and Benin in December 2019.

PROTECTION

The government decreased efforts to identify trafficking and protect victims. During the reporting period, the government identified 114 child forced labor victims and 1,628 potential trafficking victims with data from an unknown number of provinces. This is compared to identifying 851 trafficking victims and 2,844 potential trafficking victims with partial data from 30 of 45 provinces during the previous reporting period. Of these 1,628 potential victims, the Ministry of Women identified 1,578 vulnerable children living on the street, including talibés (Quranic students) exploited in forced begging. As part of the July 2019 law enforcement agreement with Cote d’Ivoire, the government identified 114 children from Central and Central-East Burkina Faso in forced labor in artisanal gold mines in Mali and Cote d’Ivoire and intercepted a convoy of 38 children and 12 adults en route to potential exploitation in artisanal gold mines in Bobo-Dioulasso, Mali, and Cote d’Ivoire. In September 2019, the Ministry of Women launched a second campaign to remove all vulnerable children from the street, including talibés exploited in forced begging, similar to the campaign conducted in August 2018. Through the campaign, the government identified and provided care to 1,578 vulnerable children, including potential trafficking victims; however, the Ministry of Women did not involve law enforcement in the campaign, limiting subsequent investigations and prosecutions of traffickers. The government provided all children identified during the campaign shelter and services including family reintegration, counseling, and medical services as needed. The government, in partnership with an international organization, facilitated the repatriation of Burkinabe trafficking victims exploited in Cote d’Ivoire. 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 had 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 continued to coordinate with an international organization to screen for trafficking indicators among refugees and IDPs.

The government operated and staffed two shelters in Ouagadougou for victims of crime, including trafficking victims; the shelters were 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, where they received shelter, food, and medical assistance. Outside of the capital, the government operated 34 regional transit centers for victims of crime that could provide psychological, social, and food assistance. These centers provided short-term services, but usually not shelter, to an unknown number of Burkinabe and foreign child trafficking victims; the centers only operated during weekly business hours and when they had sufficient funding. The government did not report allocating a budget to victim services during the reporting period; in 2018, the government allocated approximately 8.5 million FCFA ($14,600) to victim protection services. The transit centers 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. 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; the lack of victim support subsequently resulted in traffickers being able to exploit many victims again. 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 services for women and girl victims of violence, including sex trafficking, and the creation of a government support fund for victims. The government had one such center in operation during the reporting period; the ministry did not report how many victims it referred to this center during the reporting period. Similarly, the government reported an unknown number of trafficking victims received support from the fund 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 and 2018 penal code revisions contained provisions to protect victims’ identities and to 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. Victims could file civil suits against their traffickers; however, victims were often not aware of this provision and it was not utilized during the reporting period. 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 114 Burkinabe children exploited in forced labor in artisanal gold mines in Mali and 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. The government coordinated with the Nigerian embassy in Ouagadougou and provided financial assistance to repatriate 34 Nigerian trafficking victims back to Nigeria. There were no reports of trafficking victims penalized for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit; however, without uniform implementation of victim identification measures, including among vulnerable populations, some victims could have been left unidentified in the law enforcement system. The government detained five children ages 12 to 14 years old for alleged association with violent extremist groups, some of whom may have been trafficking victims; however, authorities held all five children separately from adult detainees and allowed international organizations and NGOs access to provide specialized care. During the reporting period, the government requested international expertise and assistance to establish a disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration program for children associated with violent extremist groups.

PREVENTION

The government maintained weak efforts to prevent trafficking. The Ministry of Women led the national anti-trafficking committee established to coordinate government anti-trafficking efforts. The Ministry of Women was also responsible for the government’s response to the growing humanitarian crisis due to increasing terrorist attacks, and subsequently, 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 than the anti-trafficking committee during the reporting period, so the government used this body to coordinate and share information on child protection and child trafficking issues at monthly meetings. 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 sub-committees, also responsible for intercepting traffickers and identifying victims, lacked resources for day-to-day operations and also did not meet during the reporting period. The government did not report allocating any funding to these sub-committees in the reporting period. Following the first campaign to remove vulnerable children from the street, in May 2019 the Minister of Women organized a ceremony to reward 67 Quranic teachers who honored their commitment to stop sending talibés to beg. The Ministry of Women conducted awareness-raising campaigns through radio programs, debates, and posters as well as holding capacity-building workshops on child protection, including child trafficking.

During the reporting period, the government adopted a 2019-2023 national strategy to end the worst forms of child labor, which included child trafficking, along with 2020-2021 operational action plans and a 2020-2024 national strategy for children protection. The government did not report whether it continued past efforts to conduct labor inspections specifically in artisanal mining sector to identify 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 200 calls during the reporting period; however, no 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 did not report any efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. 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. 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, Senegal, and Niger for forced labor—including in artisanal mining, forced begging, and cocoa production—or sex trafficking. During the reporting period, Ghanaian authorities identified a Burkinabe child sex trafficking victim. Burkinabe adult trafficking victims were identified in Mali and Tunisia. 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 February 2020, an international organization reported there were 765,000 IDPs in Burkina Faso as a result of instability due to terrorist attacks, a significant increase compared to 145,000 IDPs as of April 2019. During the reporting period new reports emerged that violent extremist groups exploited women and youth, including IDPs, in forced labor and sex trafficking. In addition, violent extremist groups allegedly coerced individuals to carry out attacks and otherwise act as accomplices. The government also reported violent extremist groups recruited and used child soldiers. 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. Traffickers exploit children from neighboring countries, including Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria, in forced labor and sex trafficking. Traffickers fraudulently recruit women from other West African countries for employment in Burkina Faso and subsequently exploit them in sex trafficking and forced labor in restaurants or domestic service. Sex traffickers exploit Nigerian girls 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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