2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Congo, Republic of the
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||27 June 2011|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Congo, Republic of the, 27 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e12ee88c.html [accessed 20 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This 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.|
Congo, Republic of the (Tier 2 Watch List)
The Republic of the Congo (ROC) is a source, transit, and destination country primarily for children, and possibly men and women, subjected to forced labor and, to a lesser extent, sex trafficking. Most child trafficking victims are from Benin, though Togo, Mali, Guinea, Cameroon, Senegal, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are also sources of victims subjected to forced domestic labor, market vending, and fishing, as well as commercial sexual exploitation. UNICEF reports the majority of child trafficking victims are exploited as vendors in traditional local markets, while approximately 23 percent of victims are forced into prostitution; the average age of child sex trafficking victims is 9. Child victims experience harsh treatment, long work hours, and have almost no access to education or health services; they receive little or no remuneration for their work. The majority of internally trafficked children migrate from the Pool Region to Pointe Noire and Brazzaville to serve as domestic laborers for relatives.
The Government of the Republic of the Congo does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government did not demonstrate evidence of significant efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses or to convict and punish trafficking offenders; therefore, the Republic of the Congo is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a fourth consecutive year. The Republic of the Congo was not placed on Tier 3 per Section 107 of the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, however, as the government has a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, and the government is devoting sufficient resources to implement that plan. The government enacted the Child Protection Code in June 2010, informally referred victims to foster care, and continued implementation of its 2009-2010 National Action Plan. A lack of trained law enforcement personnel and adequate, consistent funding for prevention efforts seriously limited the government's ability to address trafficking and assist victims.
Recommendations for the Republic of the Congo: Greatly increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses and to convict and punish trafficking offenders under the 2010 Child Protection Code; ratify the 2000 UN TIP Protocol; amend the country's penal code to include an adequate definition of human trafficking, including the enactment of provisions prohibiting the trafficking of adults; develop formal procedures to identify trafficking victims among child laborers, illegal immigrants, and women and girls in prostitution; provide care to trafficking victims via government-funded programs, including medical, psychological, and legal services, and develop a formal mechanism to refer victims to such care; train additional law enforcement officials, immigration officials, and social workers in the use of identification and referral procedures; and continue anti-trafficking awareness campaigns.
The Congolese government demonstrated minimal law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. It neither prosecuted trafficking offenses nor convicted trafficking offenders in 2010. The Child Protection Law, which prohibits and prescribes punishments for child trafficking, was passed by the senate in August 2009 and enacted by presidential signature in June 2010. This is the first statute to explicitly prohibit and punish child trafficking in the ROC. Chapter 2, Article 60 prohibits the trafficking, sale, trading, and exploitation of children and Article 115 prescribes penalties of forced work for an undefined period and fines of between $2,151 and $21,511 for these crimes. Article 68, a non-trafficking statute, also prohibits the worst forms of child labor, including the forced labor and prostitution of children, prescribing penalties, under Article 122, of three months' to one year's imprisonment or fines of between $108 and $1,076. Article 4 of the Congolese Labor Code prohibits forced or compulsory labor, imposing fines of between $1,290 to $1,936 for first time offenders, under Article 257. The Penal Code, which prohibits forced prostitution, may be used to prosecute trafficking offenses involving adults. None of these penalties are sufficiently stringent and the penalties for sex trafficking are not commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government did not investigate any suspected cases of human trafficking during the reporting period. Two prosecutions based on child trafficking charges filed several years ago reportedly remained pending while six prosecutions were settled out of court last year, and none resulted in a conviction or acquittal in 2010. The Ministry of Labor did not report investigating or otherwise addressing any cases of forced child labor in 2010. A lack of awareness of the child trafficking law among law enforcement officials, including labor inspectors, combined with insufficient capacity to prosecute offenders in the ROC's slow judicial system, inhibits the government from effectively addressing trafficking crimes. Moreover, the government made little effort during the reporting period to provide anti-trafficking training to law enforcement officials. The government did not provide data on the investigation, prosecution, or punishment of government officials complicit in human trafficking.
The Congolese government provided minimal protection services to trafficking victims during the reporting period, though it did identify victims and informally refer them to government-subsidized foster families. The Ministry of Social Affairs, specifically the Direction Departmental des Affaires Sociales (DDAS), provided victim care by collaborating with NGOs, partially funding selected foster families, and working with other government agencies to repatriate victims. DDAS and NGOs identified 32 child trafficking victims during the reporting period and the Ministry of Social Affairs utilized an informal referral system to provide accommodation for all 32 victims in foster families funded by the ministry; eventually, 26 were repatriated to their countries of origin, two were locally reinserted permanently, and four remain in foster families, while waiting to be reinserted locally. This foster care system, created in July 2009, ensures trafficking victims remain safe while the government and NGOs conduct family tracing. The government provided foster families $10 per child per day to ensure the victim's basic needs are met. The government also provided medical care on a case-by-case basis, including medical exams and treatment, in case of illness or hospitalization, by partnering with local hospitals, and subsidized these costs. NGOs provided either a portion or the majority of the funding for all other victim assistance programs; no government funding was provided directly to these NGOs during the reporting period. The government funded a local reinsertion program that consisted of trainings received by some of the identified child victims in local vocational schools, but the government did not specify the amount of funding or the number of children involved in this program. The government offered foreign trafficking victims temporary residency status prior to repatriation and provided them the same access to accommodation in foster families. In 2010, in cooperation with NGOs and UNICEF, DDAS approved a guide for the identification and repatriation of victims, as well as the Procedural Manual for the Support and Care of Child Trafficking Victims. Published in January 2011 by UNICEF, the manual provides best practices on monitoring trafficked children and standard measures to best serve the victims. Law enforcement, immigration, and social services personnel did not have a formal system to guide them in the proactive identification of victims among vulnerable groups. However, throughout 2010, the government provided specialized anti-trafficking training for 32 individuals from the Ministry of Social Affairs, Border Police, National Police, and community and faith-based groups on techniques for identifying child trafficking victims. The Ministry of Social Affairs, in partnership with UNICEF, trained government-employed social workers on listening and counseling techniques for the psychological care of child trafficking victims in June 2010. Trafficking victims were not jailed or otherwise penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. The government encouraged victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers.
The government maintained modest efforts to prevent trafficking during the year. DDAS, in cooperation with UNICEF, led and funded the implementation of the 2009-2010 Action Plan to Fight Child Trafficking; the government provided $60,500 and UNICEF contributed $140,000. DDAS continued to lead an anti-trafficking task force, charged with implementing the action plan, which included representatives from the Ministry of Social Affairs, the National Police, the Border Patrol, and other government agencies, as well as NGOs, community leaders, and faith-based organizations. The 2011-2013 National Action Plan is nearly finalized. The government budgeted $100,000 for DDAS's anti-trafficking work in the 2011 budget, the first anti-trafficking budget item in the ROC; this funding has not yet been allocated. In April and October 2010, DDAS partnered with an NGO, the mayor's office, media outlets, community leaders, religious leaders, and a fishing community organization on trafficking awareness campaigns in Pointe Noire, utilizing radio and television announcements, door-to-door visits, religious gatherings, market radio, and theater productions. The government also partnered with UNICEF to raise awareness about the existence of trafficking in the ROC; these campaigns reportedly reached over 29,000 people. The government did not take measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts during the reporting period. The ROC is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.