Last Updated: Thursday, 24 July 2014, 07:02 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Comoros

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Comoros, 19 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fe30cd6c.html [accessed 24 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

COMOROS (Tier 2 Watch List)

The Comoros is a source country for children, and possibly for men and women, subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Comoran children are subjected to forced labor within the country – mostly on the island of Anjouan – in domestic service, roadside and market vending, baking, and agriculture. Children from Anjouan are sent as domestic workers to Mayotte, where some of the children are subjected to forced labor. Children from Anjouan are also coerced into criminal activities, such as drug trafficking. Girls are exploited in prostitution on all three islands in rented houses, nightclubs, and hotels, often with the knowledge of their families and after being coerced by other young girls. There are reports that foreign tourists frequent these establishments. Many Comoran boys aged three to 14 studying at Koranic schools headed by corrupt fundi, or religious teachers, are exploited in forced labor as porters, market vendors, field hands, construction workers, or domestic servants. These Koranic students – including girls – also are subjected to physical and sexual abuse; the ILO reports more than 60 percent of children it surveyed in 2009 were victims of sexual abuse by their fundi. The Comoros may be particularly vulnerable to transnational trafficking due to a lack of adequate border controls, endemic corruption within the administration, and the existence of local and international criminal networks involved in human smuggling and document forgery. Trafficked Comoran children have been identified in domestic servitude in France.

The Government of the Comoros does not comply fully with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these efforts, the government did not demonstrate evidence of overall increasing measures to address human trafficking compared to the previous year; therefore, the Comoros is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a second consecutive year. Although resource strapped, the government failed to find low-cost ways to take law enforcement action against trafficking offenders, improve efforts to protect victims, and prevent these crimes from occurring. It took no discernible steps under existing legislation to investigate, prosecute, or punish trafficking offenders, including corrupt fundi. Furthermore, the Ministry of Labor made negligible efforts to prevent or investigate cases of forced child labor. NGO-run care centers that provided support to trafficking victims received minimal support from the government. The government relied on donor funding and international organization partners for the majority of its anti-trafficking efforts during the year. Nevertheless, the government, in partnership with international organizations, continued implementation of a national action plan to address the worst forms of child labor, including undertaking legislative efforts specifically to prohibit and penalize trafficking in persons.

Recommendations for the Comoros: Enact anti-trafficking legislation; using existing legislation, investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses and convict and punish trafficking offenders, including corrupt fundi who exploit Koranic students; develop procedures, even informally, for the identification and referral of trafficking victims to care; establish services and provide support for the care of trafficking victims, possibly within facilities already in existence for victims of other crimes; and continue anti-trafficking public awareness campaigns on each of the islands.

Prosecution

During the year, the Government of the Comoros demonstrated minimal anti-trafficking law enforcement commitment. The principal act of note was the government's inclusion of anti-trafficking provisions in labor legislation drafted during the reporting period; this legislation remains pending with the National Assembly. However, the government did not take steps to investigate or prosecute trafficking offenses in 2011. Comoran law does not prohibit all forms of human trafficking. Existing laws, however, could be used to prosecute trafficking crimes, although the government did not report doing so. Article 323 of the penal code prohibits child prostitution, prescribing sufficiently stringent punishments of two to five years' imprisonment and fines of between the equivalent of $462 and $6,154; these penalties, however, are not commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. Existing laws lack specific provisions concerning the forced prostitution of adults. Article 2 of the labor code prohibits forced and bonded labor, prescribing insufficiently stringent penalties of from three months' to three years' imprisonment or fines of from the equivalent of $308 to $1,538. Article 333 of the penal code prohibits illegal restraint and prescribes penalties of 10 to 20 years' imprisonment; these penalties are sufficiently stringent. As part of its implementation of the National Action Plan on the Worst Forms of Child Labor, the government made efforts to improve its labor laws during the year. The National Assembly conducted its first reading of the draft labor bill, which includes a provision specifically to penalize and prohibit trafficking in persons, in December 2011, following which members submitted recommendations for the bill's amendment. The National Assembly had not passed the bill during the session ending in February 2012.

The government did not report its investigation or prosecution of trafficking cases during the year. Due to social stigma, cases of violence against children are rarely referred to law enforcement, and alleged perpetrators are often released without prosecution. The gendarmerie, prosecutors, and local authorities are influenced by important members of Comoran society, often leading to the release of offenders before completion of their trial. Corruption remained endemic throughout the Comoros and hindered law enforcement efforts, including those to address trafficking, and may have served to facilitate the crime. The government did not take steps to investigate or prosecute public officials for complicity in human trafficking. International organizations and NGOs provided anti-trafficking training for officials during the year; however, the government did not support such training either financially or in-kind. In mid-2011, commanding officers in the police and gendarme disseminated instructional circulars to their units to raise awareness on child labor and trafficking.

Protection

The government made minimal efforts to protect victims of human trafficking during the year. In 2011, the government was to assume responsibility for funding three UNICEF-supported, NGO-run centers for abused children but failed to do so, limiting the services the centers were able to provide; one government employee and a social work intern coordinated efforts among or provided basic counseling support to these three NGO centers, which offered care and counseling to an unknown number of child trafficking victims during the year. The center in Anjouan assisted in 873 cases of violence against children – including children abused by corrupt fundi, children used in the commission of crimes, or children enslaved in domestic service. The government provided basic medical care through national health centers or hospitals; however, the government failed to provide psycho-social services for victims or support NGOs in doing so. The government did not develop or employ systematic procedures for identifying trafficking victims or for referring them to the limited care available. Because government officials lacked the ability to identify trafficking victims, some victims may have been penalized for crimes committed as a result of being trafficked.

Prevention

The Comoran government maintained minimal efforts to prevent trafficking during the reporting period. Unlike in 2010, the government conducted public awareness campaigns on national television and officials made statements on radio broadcasts in 2011 on child labor, including trafficking. It also organized the celebration of World Day Against Child Labor in June 2011, with high-level officials in attendance. The government has not established a national coordinating body to guide its efforts to combat trafficking. While it did not have an action plan to address trafficking, the government continued its partnership with the ILO on the implementation of the 2010-2015 National Action Plan for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor, which includes activities to address child trafficking. As part of its implementation, in September 2011, through Ministerial Decree No. 11/09, the government created regional committees on each of the three islands to support child labor sensitization campaigns; it is unclear whether these committees had coordinated campaigns during the year. However, all subsequent awareness raising events or trainings were funded and run by the ILO and UNICEF. The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing child labor laws, but it did not effectively do so. It does not appear that the government made any efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. The Comoros is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

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