2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Niger
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||27 June 2011|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Niger, 27 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e12ee595.html [accessed 26 April 2015]|
Niger (Tier 2 Watch List)
Niger is a source, transit, and destination country for children and women subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Caste-based slavery practices continue primarily in the northern part of the country. Nigerien children are subjected to forced begging within the country, as well as in Mali and Nigeria, by religious instructors known as marabouts. They also are subjected to domestic servitude, prostitution, and forced labor in gold mines, agriculture, and stone quarries within the country. Nigerien children, primarily girls, also are subjected to prostitution along the border with Nigeria, particularly along the main highway in the towns of Birni N'Konni and Zinder. Nigerien girls reportedly entered into "marriages" with citizens of Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, whereby they were forced into domestic servitude upon arrival in these countries. In the Tahoua region of Niger, girls born into slavery were reportedly forced to marry men who bought them and subsequently subjected them to forced labor and sexual servitude. Niger is a transit country for women and children from Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Gabon, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, and Togo migrating en route to Algeria, Libya, and Western Europe; some may be subjected to forced labor in Niger as domestic servants, mechanics and welders, or laborers in mines and on farms. To a lesser extent, Nigerien women and children are recruited from Niger and transported to Nigeria, North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe for domestic servitude and sex trafficking.
The Government of Niger does not fully comply 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 overall increased efforts to address human trafficking over the previous year; therefore Niger is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a second consecutive year. The government acknowledges that trafficking, including slavery, is a problem in the country. The country was led by a transition government during the reporting period; this regime, appointed following the February 2010 coup, lacked a budget and constitutional authority for much of the year. In December 2010, the transitional government enacted the country's first specific law to address trafficking; however, the government's few efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses during the year came only after receiving complaints from NGOs, and efforts to prosecute cases of traditional slavery and to provide assistance to victims remained weak.
Recommendations for Niger: While continuing to respond to legal complaints filed by NGOs, increase efforts to initiate investigations and prosecute and punish trafficking offenders, particularly those guilty of slavery offenses; prescribe adequate sentences for individuals convicted of committing trafficking crimes, and enforce the judgments of the court; in coordination with NGOs and international organizations, train law enforcement officials to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as women in prostitution or children in worksites, and refer them to protective services; increase efforts to rescue victims of traditional slavery practices; allocate sufficient funds to establish the National Agency to Combat Trafficking in Persons and the National Commission to Coordinate Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons, as mandated by the 2010 anti-trafficking law, and establish a clear division of responsibilities among the two bodies and the National Commission against Forced Labor and Discrimination; complete and adopt a National Action Plan to combat trafficking; and implement an initiative to raise public awareness about the new anti-trafficking law and encourage victims to exercise their rights under the law.
The Government of Niger demonstrated limited progress in its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, seen largely through its enactment of a law prohibiting all forms of trafficking, including slavery and practices similar to slavery. The government demonstrated weak efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking cases using existing laws. In December 2010, the transitional government enacted Order No. 2010-86 on Combating Trafficking in Persons, a comprehensive anti-trafficking law that prohibits all forms of trafficking, including slavery and practices similar to slavery, and prescribes a punishment of five to 10 years' imprisonment for committing trafficking crimes against adults. These prescribed penalties are sufficiently stringent, but not commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The law prescribes an increased penalty of 10 to 30 years' imprisonment when the victim is a child. The law defines slavery and practices similar to slavery and includes a specific provision prohibiting exploitative begging. Existing statues prohibited some forms of trafficking: the country's penal code prohibits slavery, procurement of a child for prostitution, and the encouragement or profiting from child begging in Articles 270 (as amended in 2003), 292-293, and 181, respectively, and its labor code outlaws forced and compulsory labor in Article 4. The penal code's prescribed penalty of 10 to 30 years' imprisonment for slavery offenses is sufficiently stringent. The penalties prescribed in the labor code for forced labor, fines ranging from $48 to $598 and from six days' to one month's imprisonment, are not sufficiently stringent. The government arrested three suspected trafficking offenders during the year – all of whom were brought to its attention through complaints filed by NGOs – and obtained two convictions. In June 2010, a court in Madaoua convicted two individuals under a statute prohibiting the corruption of minors for prostituting five girls under the age of 15; the traffickers each received a sentence of six months' suspended imprisonment and a fine of approximately $100. In May 2010, a Nigerien man was arrested and detained for allegedly re-enslaving two of his former slaves; at the end of the reporting year, he remained in detention without a trial date. The same man is awaiting trial on both an appeal of a fine imposed upon him in the previous year and on charges filed by an NGO that this sentence was inadequate. The status of five other women whom he had allegedly enslaved is unknown. In July 2010, he was awarded custody of two children he fathered with one of his former slaves. Also during the year, a Nigerian man – arrested during the previous reporting period for allegedly trafficking his nephew in Nigeria – spent four months in pre-trial detention, but fled the country when he was granted provisional release. A man was convicted during the previous reporting year of holding a woman in slavery remained in prison, though he did not pay the $24,000 in fines ordered by the court. There were no reported developments in a slavery case that has been pending since 2006. Nigerien authorities collaborated with officials from Nigeria and, in April 2010, they provided information to the Nigerian National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons that led to the arrest of two Nigerien men suspected of trying to sell a 5-year-old Nigerien girl, possibly for the purposes of exploitation. The government did not provide specialized training to law enforcement officers on the investigation of trafficking cases, but in May 2010, the Ministry of Justice provided a one-day training for an unknown number of law enforcement officers on trafficking prevention and victim protection. In September 2010, representatives from the Ministries of Defense and Justice spoke at the opening and closing ceremonies of a capacity-building training held by an NGO for 30 officials from the police, gendarmerie, and National Guard, which included training on investigating trafficking offenses and protecting victims. There were no reports of government officials being investigated, prosecuted, or convicted for involvement in trafficking or trafficking-related criminal activities during the reporting period.
The transition government demonstrated limited efforts to protect child trafficking victims during the year, but did not provide the same care to adult trafficking victims or victims of traditional slavery practices. Authorities did not take proactive measures to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as women in prostitution or children at worksites. NGOs reported rescuing 95 child trafficking victims without government involvement. The government did not have a system for referring victims to protective services, but it reportedly provided medical assistance and temporary shelter in social service facilities to an unknown number of child victims and referred them on an ad hoc basis to local NGOs for care. The government assisted in repatriating 89 children to Mali, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Benin, Cameroon, and Liberia, as well as returning trafficked Nigerien children to their villages. The regional government of Agadez continued to operate a committee comprised of police and local officials to assist undocumented Nigerien migrants expelled from North Africa to return to their countries or communities of origin, though it did not make efforts to identify trafficking victims among this population. There were no reports that victims were detained, fined, or jailed for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked; however, the government did not make adequate efforts to identify trafficking victims, which may have led to some victims being treated as law violators. The anti-trafficking law includes provisions allowing victims to file civil suits against trafficking offenders, though none exercised this right in 2010. Victims' participation in the investigation of trafficking offenses was neither encouraged nor discouraged, but they were often reluctant to cooperate with law enforcement.
The Transition Government of Niger sustained modest efforts to prevent human trafficking during the year, primarily through campaigns to educate the public about trafficking, though it did not make efforts to prevent traditional slavery. The multi-stakeholder National Commission against Forced Labor and Discrimination continued to meet sporadically during the year. In April 2010, the Ministry of Labor, with support from an international organization, held a workshop to educate 22 performing artists expected to play a role in future campaigns about the worst forms of child labor, including labor trafficking. In August, the government, with support from an international organization, held a town hall meeting to raise awareness about child trafficking among community members in Agadez. Subsequently, local authorities created vigilance committees assigned to track and report any cases of child trafficking to local law enforcement agencies, though they did not report identifying any cases during the year. In June 2010, during a regional conference in Chad, the government signed the N'Djamena Declaration denouncing the use of children in armed conflict, though there were no reports that the government used children in its armed services. By-laws governing Niger's armed forces require troops to receive anti-trafficking training prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions, though the government did not confirm the implementation of this training.