Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 November 2014, 14:08 GMT

2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - France

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 27 June 2011
Cite as United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - France, 27 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e12ee7dc.html [accessed 25 November 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.

France (Tier 1)

France is a destination and transit country for men, women, and children from Eastern Europe, West Africa, and Asia, as well as the Caribbean and Brazil, subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. France is also a limited source country for French citizens subjected to forced labor and forced prostitution. Sex trafficking networks controlled by Bulgarians, Romanians, Nigerians, and French citizens force women into prostitution through debt bondage, physical force, and psychological coercion, including the invocation of voodoo. Women and children, many from Africa, continued to be subjected to forced domestic service. Many of these cases were reportedly inter-familial, in which families exploited family members brought from Africa to work in their households in France. Other cases involve a limited number of diplomats or members of Middle Eastern royal families. The Government of France estimates that the majority of the 20,000 people in France's commercial sex trade, about 80 percent of whom are foreigners, are likely forced into prostitution. There are also reports that a significant number of children, primarily from Romania, West Africa, and North Africa, are victims of sex trafficking in France. Romani and other unaccompanied minors in France continued to be vulnerable to forced begging and forced theft.

Women and children from Brazil were subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking in the French overseas territory of French Guiana. There were also reports that Chinese laborers may have been forced to work in French Guiana.

The Government of France fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government published the first study on its own anti-trafficking policies and put structures in place for more robust national coordination. The government offered victim assistance to trafficking victims throughout the country, though almost always with conditions of the victims' participation in law enforcement investigations and sometimes at the victims' financial expense. The government did not officially collect victim referral data. The government increased the number of cases investigated and prosecuted under the trafficking statute, although the numbers still remained low. NGOs and government officials reported that first responders needed to strengthen their proactive victim identification.

Recommendations for France: Increase implementation of France's anti-trafficking statute; increase anti-trafficking training for prosecutors and judges; ensure the safety and confidentiality of trafficking victims during the course of investigations and trials; improve protections for all unaccompanied minors in France who are potentially victims of trafficking; improve implementation of proactive identification procedures and referral for potential trafficking victims; offer residency permits to all identified victims; consider eliminating, reducing, or allowing waivers for victims' residency permit fees to encourage more victims to apply; soften the requirement that victims of trafficking participate in the prosecution of trafficking offenders in order to receive long-term benefits; enhance collection and compilation of law enforcement and victim assistance data, including a breakdown of types of involuntary servitude and prosecutions for forced labor; ensure that actions taken in the name of trafficking prevention do not serve to stigmatize an entire group; continue to establish a more victim-centered approach to trafficking in France, including measures to ensure victims who denounce their traffickers are provided with adequate safety and support; and report on assistance provided to identified victims of trafficking in mainland France and in French Guiana.

Prosecution

The Government of France continued to improve its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period, although the majority of trafficking offenses were still charged under non-trafficking statutes. The government began the first stages of implementing the policy specified in a Ministry of Justice circular, urging prosecutors to use the trafficking statute more frequently, even when those cases otherwise could be charged as pimping, exploitation of begging, or under labor statutes. France prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons through Article 225-4 of its penal code, which prescribes statutory maximum penalties of between seven years' and life imprisonment for aggravated trafficking offenses. These prescribed penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape. Data challenges continued; a government report recommended an annual inventory of trafficking cases investigated and prosecuted. Currently available data reflect the investigation and prosecution of at least 45 suspected trafficking offenders under Article 225-4 in 2009, compared with 16 suspected offenders prosecuted in 2008. In 2009, the most recent year for which comprehensive data was available, French authorities convicted at least three trafficking offenders charged under Article 225-4-2, an aggravated trafficking section, compared with convictions in three cases in 2008. The government also convicted 17 offenders for the prostitution of children in 2009, down from 19 convictions for the prostitution of children in 2008. French officials continued to rely largely on anti-pimping provisions of the country's penal code to prosecute suspected sex trafficking offenses. The government reported 498 convictions under its anti-pimping statute in 2009; approximately 16 percent of the original arrests were for trafficking-specific offenses. In 2008, the government convicted approximately 500 offenders under the anti-pimping statute, although it is unclear how many of these convictions were for underlying trafficking offenses. In 2009, the majority of trafficking offenders were sentenced to between two and 10 years in prison. Initial reports of 2010 data show longer prison terms for trafficking offenders in aggravated cases. In 2010, in a case involving the trafficking of a French victim, French authorities sentenced two trafficking offenders to terms of 30 years' imprisonment, and 10 other trafficking offenders to terms between two and 25 years' imprisonment. Prosecutions were still predicated on a victim's formal complaint; a government report recommended dropping that requirement. Although the government reported that it provided some training to judges and prosecutors, NGO representatives reported that French magistrates had a low understanding of human trafficking offenses. NGOs also reported that the police and the judiciary did not always respect the confidentiality of trafficked persons. At times, the police held interviews of trafficking victims in open places and the judiciary rarely used available safety procedures, such as video testimony, when victims participated in trial. French law enforcement authorities collaborated with several governments to investigate human trafficking cases, including the Governments of Spain, Italy, and Belgium. During 2010, the Government of Suriname sent a letter to the French Embassy in Suriname, to inform them of an indictment in a trafficking case in which a French consular officer was allegedly complicit. The French government referred the case for internal investigation.

Protection

The government sustained its victim protection efforts during the reporting period. The national government and City of Paris sustained partnerships with NGOs in order to provide trafficking victims with a network of services, including protection in 49 shelters, during the reporting period. The shelter system was open to adult victims facing immediate danger or highly vulnerable circumstances. The network of shelters received 64 requests for victim assistance and assisted 50 female victims of trafficking, most of whom were Nigerian. French authorities did not report overall funding allocations to NGOs for victims of trafficking. However, the government provided at least $254,000 to the network of shelters for victim assistance in 2010 as well as additional, separate grants to individual shelters in the network; the City of Paris contributed a further $28,000 for the shelters. Although there were no facilities specifically dedicated to the care of child victims of trafficking, child protective services identified 20 child victims of trafficking and referred them to multi-purpose children's shelters. The government reported that police identified 688 trafficking victims in 2010; this was a decrease from 2009, during which it identified 799 trafficking victims. The government did not report the number of victims it referred to care. One NGO that worked primarily with victims of domestic servitude reported caring for 126 such victims this reporting period. Nevertheless, a government report on trafficking concluded that first-responders, including those in embassies, state agencies, and hospitals, needed to adopt a more proactive approach to identifying victims of trafficking. The Government of France had no formal referral mechanism for victims of trafficking, though provisions for such victim referral exist in the trafficking statute. Although the government has directed the police to inform all identified trafficking victims of their rights, NGOs observed that this was rarely done in practice. Victims of trafficking were required to pay approximately $400 for permits for six months' or one year's temporary residency, conditioned on their filing a formal complaint against their exploiters. These permits were available during the duration of the criminal process and automatically become permanent upon an offender's conviction. French authorities reported that at least 83 temporary residence permits were granted during 2010. The government issued a circular granting local prefects the discretion to grant permanent residency in cases in which the defendant was not convicted, the victim speaks French, and the victim has found employment; no such permanent residency was granted during the reporting period. With the exception of a 30-day reflection period for identified victims, the granting of all residency permits was conditional on victims' cooperation with the police. Moreover, NGOs reported that government authorities offered the 30-day reflection period inconsistently. There were no reports that identified trafficking victims were penalized for crimes committed as a direct result of their being trafficked.

Prevention

The government improved its prevention efforts during the reporting period. In 2010, the government established an inter-ministerial anti-trafficking working group with the participation of government officials and NGOs. The group drafted the country's first National Action Plan for 2011-2013, though the plan was not approved during the reporting period. A government agency published a study on trafficking in France, including a critical assessment of the prosecution system. During the reporting period, the government took steps toward establishing unprecedented central coordination by designating the Ministry of Justice to collect and compile anti-trafficking data. The government funded the publication of a pamphlet to inform the public about human trafficking and to explain how to assist a trafficking victim. The government produced a DVD in multiple languages to help victims of trafficking self-identify. The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs had a mechanism to detect domestic servitude and to protect domestic servants of diplomatic officials stationed in France. Among other measures, the government requires the diplomatic officials to conform domestic work contracts to French labor law, to disclose the terms of the contracts, and to allow the domestic servant to come regularly to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for interviews outside of the presence of the employer. The government continued its strong prevention and prosecution efforts to combat child sex tourism. In September and November, French authorities sentenced two French citizens for child sex tourism crimes in Nepal and Thailand, sentencing them to 10 and 15 years in prison. The government funded NGOs to produce posters and pamphlets to reduce the demand for child prostitution and child sex tourism. The government dissolved Romani camps in France, justifying the action, in part, on preventing trafficking in persons, but it was unclear that the action had any tangible connection to or impact on trafficking in persons. The French government provided anti-trafficking training to all peacekeeping troops prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.

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