Last Updated: Friday, 19 September 2014, 13:55 GMT

2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Comoros

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 27 June 2011
Cite as United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Comoros, 27 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e12ee8926.html [accessed 21 September 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 subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking, and possibly for men and women for those same purposes. Comoran children are subjected to forced labor within the country in domestic service, roadside and market vending, baking, and agriculture. Many of these children are sent by family members to do this work and subsequently experience long working hours, wage nonpayment, and physical or sexual abuse – conditions indicative of forced labor. Children from Anjouan, one of the islands of the Comoros, are sent as domestic workers to the island of Mayotte, where some are subjected to forced labor. Children from Anjouan also are coerced into illegal 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 3 to 14 studying at Koranic schools headed by unscrupulous fundi, or religious teachers, are exploited in forced labor as porters, market venders, field workers, 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 human 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. For example, the government recently dismantled an illegal migrant network of Iraqis traveling to Europe through the Comoros with counterfeit passports. During the separatist crisis in 2007 and 2008, the Anjouan Gendarmerie Force (FGA), a local arm of the Comoran national army, conscripted and armed at least 200 child soldiers from the island of Anjouan to intimidate civilians. There are no longer child soldiers in the Anjouan Gendarmerie and during the reporting period the government began implementation of a National Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration Plan through which former child soldiers received care. Trafficked Comoran children also have been identified in situations of domestic servitude in France.

The Government of the Comoros does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the reporting period, the government, in partnership with international organizations, began implementation of a National Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration Plan, through which 40 former child soldiers, some of whom were trafficking victims, received protective services. In addition, the government began implementation of a national action plan to address the worst forms of child labor, including forced child labor, reflecting the government's awareness of the seriousness of the child labor problem in the Comoros.

Despite these efforts, the Ministry of Labor itself made negligible efforts to prevent the use of forced child labor or investigate suspected cases. The government made no discernible efforts to investigate, prosecute, or convict trafficking offenders, including unscrupulous fundi, under existing legislation. Children in prostitution were sometimes beaten or harassed by authorities following arrest. Although former child soldiers received care, the government did not provide care to victims of sex or labor trafficking and prevention efforts were minimal. Although resource strapped, the government failed to find cost-effective ways to take law enforcement action against trafficking offenders, protect victims, and prevent these crimes from occurring. The Comoros, therefore, is placed on Tier 2 Watch List.

Recommendations for the Comoros: Draft and pass anti-trafficking legislation; investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses and convict and punish trafficking offenders under existing legislation; take action against unscrupulous fundi who exploit Koranic students; develop procedures, even informally, for the identification and referral of trafficking victims to care; establish services for the care of trafficking victims, possibly within facilities already in existence for victims of other crimes; and launch an anti-trafficking public awareness campaign on each of the islands.

Prosecution

The Government of the Comoros made minimal anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. There is no law that comprehensively prohibits trafficking in persons in the Comoros. Existing laws, however, could be used to prosecute trafficking crimes, though the government did not report the investigation or prosecution of trafficking offenses. Article 323 of the penal code prohibits child prostitution, prescribing insufficiently stringent punishments of two to five years' imprisonment and fines of between $462 and $6,154, penalties that 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 penalties of between three months to three years' imprisonment or fine of $308 to $1,538; these penalties are not sufficiently stringent. Trafficking offenses also could be tried under Article 333 of the penal code for illegal restraint, which prescribes penalties of 10 to 20 years' imprisonment. In most parts of the island nation, cases are settled out of court by village elders or religious leaders, with material or financial compensation paid to the victim; in some cases, settlements may include child marriage to preserve a family's honor. On the island of Anjouan, however, people reportedly did not hesitate to report crimes involving abuse during the year, preferring legal proceeding to such settlements. The police reportedly conducted routine patrols throughout the islands and found underage girls in prostitution, though there were no apparent efforts to investigate these as human trafficking offenses. Following their arrest, these girls are often released without care and some are harassed and beaten by police. Corruption is endemic throughout the Comoros and hinders law enforcement efforts in many areas, including those to address trafficking, and may serve to facilitate the crime. The government did not take steps to investigate, prosecute, convict, or sentence public officials for complicity in human trafficking. The government has not provided training for law enforcement officials on human trafficking.

Protection

The government has limited resources for social programming, including for protecting victims of human trafficking, and it did not provide assistance to sex or labor trafficking victims during the year. It began to implement programs, however, that provided services to former child soldiers, some of whom were trafficking victims. In 2006, the government established one shelter for the protection of abused children on each of the three islands. These shelters offered care and counseling to a variety of children and could have provided care to child trafficking victims, though the government did not report that they did so during the reporting period. Child abuse victims also may be cared for by designated families and child protection officials if no care center is available. Observers reported, however, that the government did not take specific action to protect or promote children's welfare and did not enforce legal provisions that address the rights and welfare of children. There was no formal process for identifying trafficking victims or for referring them to the limited care available; as government officials lacked the ability to identify trafficking victims properly, some victims were most likely detained, jailed, and penalized for crimes committed as a result of being trafficked. In July 2010, the Ministries of Defense, Interior, Justice and Education – in cooperation with UNDP, ILO, UNFPA, and UN Women – began implementation of a National Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration Plan; 40 former child soldiers were enrolled in this program where they received medical and psychological exams, counseling, and vocational training. In the Comoros, there were no separate jails for minors, thus children in conflict with the law were jailed in the same quarters as adults in Moheli and Anjouan, and in Grande Comore they were housed in the prison guards' barracks. Although there were no reported foreign victims, the government reported it does not force foreign nationals to return to countries where they may be subject to retribution.

Prevention

The Comoran government made minimal efforts to prevent trafficking. During the reporting period, the government did not conduct any public anti-trafficking campaigns and there was no national coordinating body to guide its efforts to combat trafficking. While it did not have an action plan to address trafficking in persons specifically, the government, in partnership with an ILO project funded by a donor country, adopted the 2010-2015 National Action Plan for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor, which includes activities to address child prostitution; child soldiering; child labor in the domestic, agricultural, and fishing sectors; and the use of children to traffic drugs. Together with a 2009 study on child labor in partnership with the ILO, the adoption of this plan reflects the government's increasing awareness of the seriousness of the child labor problem in the country. In March 2011, the government created a police-gendarme unit charged with the investigation of child labor cases, fulfilling one of the action items of the plan. Also in March 2011, the government organized a seminar for judges, law enforcement officials, teachers, and religious authorities on discouraging the use of child labor, the identification of child labor cases, and the management of cases once discovered. In 2010, the government conducted awareness raising activities related to the national action plan, which included a media campaign and the placement of billboards at strategic locations. The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing child labor laws, but it did not actively or effectively do so, making no efforts to prevent child labor, conducting no inspections, and removing no children from exploitative labor situations during the year. There is one government labor inspector for each of the three Comoran islands who is responsible for all labor issues. This number is inadequate to seek out child labor violations, including forced child labor. The government does not monitor immigration and emigration patterns for evidence of trafficking. In an island nation like the Comoros this creates a particular vulnerability. The government has not made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex. The Comoros is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

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