2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Equatorial Guinea
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||19 June 2012|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Equatorial Guinea, 19 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fe30ccdc.html [accessed 6 May 2015]|
EQUATORIAL GUINEA (Tier 3)
Equatorial Guinea is a source and destination for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. The majority of trafficking victims are believed to be exploited in Malabo and Bata, where burgeoning construction and economic activity funded by oil wealth has contributed to increases in the demand for cheap labor and commercial sex acts. Children are transported from nearby countries – primarily Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, Togo, and Gabon – and may be forced to work as domestic servants, market laborers, ambulant vendors, and launderers. In some instances, distant relatives claiming to be their parents are responsible for subjecting these children to forced labor. Equatoguinean girls, some as young as 14 or 15, are victims of sex trafficking in Malabo and Bata, and reports indicate some parents may encourage their daughters to engage in prostitution, especially with foreigners, in order to receive groceries, gifts, housing, and money. Women from Cameroon, Benin, and other neighboring countries are recruited for work in Equatorial Guinea, but may be subsequently subjected to forced labor or forced prostitution. Some Chinese women migrate to Equatorial Guinea for work or to engage in prostitution and may be subject to passport confiscation. In 2011, an Equatoguinean woman was identified and rescued from forced prostitution in Spain. Sub-contractor staff in the oil services and construction sectors, including migrants from Africa, Asia, and the Americas, may be vulnerable to forced labor, as they reportedly endure sub-standard working conditions and, in some instances, may be subject to passport confiscation.
The Government of Equatorial Guinea does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. Over the reporting period, the government neither identified a single victim of human trafficking nor made any efforts to provide victims of trafficking with protective services, despite the mandate to do so in its 2004 anti-trafficking law. If the government had recognized a child victim of human trafficking it could possibly refer the child to a church-run orphanage and provide a scholarship for the child's care. The government routinely deported illegal immigrants without attempting to determine whether they were victims of trafficking or referring them to assistance services, and rarely notified embassies that their nationals had been detained. Prevention efforts were extremely limited; the government did not undertake any public awareness campaigns and its interagency commission on human trafficking took no action. The government's response to human trafficking has been negligible, particularly given its substantial financial resources.
Recommendations for Equatorial Guinea: Increase the use of the 2004 anti-trafficking law to prosecute and convict trafficking offenders and complicit officials; develop formal procedures to identify trafficking victims among child laborers, illegal immigrants, and women and girls in prostitution; dedicate funding for the sheltering and protection of trafficking victims and develop a formal system to refer victims to such care; train law enforcement officials, immigration officials, and social workers in the use of identification and referral procedures; cease summary deportation of foreign men, women and children from Equatoguinean territory without first screening for trafficking and, if appropriate, providing them with care and safe, voluntary repatriation; notify embassies when their nationals have been detained; research the extent and nature of the problem of human trafficking within the country; and launch a nationwide anti-trafficking public awareness campaign.
The Government of Equatorial Guinea demonstrated minimal anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. The 2004 Law on the Smuggling of Migrants and Trafficking in Persons prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes penalties of 10 to 15 years' imprisonment, punishments which are sufficiently stringent. Despite having a law in place and reports of child trafficking, the government initiated no investigations or prosecutions of suspected trafficking offenses. Foreign embassies reported the resolution outside the justice system of potential trafficking cases involving their nationals; Ministry of Justice officials confirmed that this practice inhibits their ability to prosecute offenders. The Ministry of National Security reported conducting a training session on methods for identifying victims of human trafficking for police officers at the airport, border patrol agents, and chiefs of inspections. This training was funded by the Government of Equatorial Guinea.
The Government of Equatorial Guinea failed to demonstrate effective measures to protect trafficking victims during the reporting period. It did not identify or refer any victims to protective services in 2011. Although the 2004 anti-trafficking law mandates the government's provision of legal assistance, psychological and medical care, counseling, lodging, food, access to education, training, and employment opportunities to trafficking victims, the government failed to provide any of these protective services during the year. Care for possible Equatoguinean child trafficking victims continued to be provided by church-run orphanages with scholarships provided by the Equatoguinean government; foreign children continued to be deported summarily. There were no shelters or other types of protective services in Equatorial Guinea for adult trafficking victims. Law enforcement authorities did not employ procedures to identify victims of trafficking proactively and did not make efforts – in either a systematic or an ad hoc way – to refer victims to organizations that provide short- or long-term care, although the Ministry of National Security claimed it had procedures in place to screen illegal immigrants detained at the border to determine if they were victims of human trafficking. The absence of a proactive victim identification process, including procedures for screening deportees, impaired the government's ability to provide care or assistance to foreign trafficking victims. The government continued to penalize victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of their trafficking; it detained foreign nationals, including potential trafficking victims, at police stations for periods of several days to several months, and seldom notified their embassies of their detention or deportation. The overwhelming majority of those detained were young men, though children and women were also sometimes detained and deported. The government did not provide foreign trafficking victims with temporary or permanent resident status, or any other legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they might face retribution or hardship. Officials did not appear to fine or prosecute detainees, but sometimes confiscated their possessions and money.
The Government of Equatorial Guinea decreased its efforts to prevent trafficking during the reporting period. It did not launch any anti-trafficking informational or educational campaigns for the general public. The effectiveness of the Interagency Commission for Trafficking in Persons, directed by the Prime Minister's Office and chaired by the Ministry of Justice, remained limited, and it did not convene or produce any results during the year. The national action plan, produced following passage of the 2004 law, has not been implemented and is out of date. In February 2010, the government consulted with UNICEF and UNDP to revise this plan to include an initial study on the extent of child trafficking and establishment of a pilot shelter in Malabo, but it has still not finalized or implemented the plan. The Government of Equatorial Guinea worked with UNDP to revise and implement a new anti-trafficking plan as part of a wider human rights strategy for 2012. During the reporting period, the government made significant improvements in the residency cards it issues to foreigners to include biometric and holographic security features, which were not present in previous residency cards. In 2011, the Ministry of Labor conducted numerous workplace inspections to verify adherence to labor laws in regard to pay, benefits, and working conditions; when violations were found, the government required some employers to correct the problem, pay fines, or pay reparations to the employees. The Government of Equatorial Guinea did not participate in or implement any programs to address forced child labor, and did not identify a single child labor victim despite having 100 labor inspectors dedicated to documenting labor infractions. It did not undertake any discernible measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts during the year.