Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 - Gabon
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Author||Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons|
|Publication Date||4 June 2008|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 - Gabon, 4 June 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/484f9a172.html [accessed 30 January 2015]|
GABON (Tier 2 Watch List)
Gabon is predominantly a destination country for children trafficked from other African countries for the purpose of forced labor. Children are trafficked primarily by boat to Gabon from Benin, Nigeria, Togo, and Guinea, with smaller numbers coming from Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, and Cameroon. Girls are primarily trafficked for domestic servitude, forced market vending, forced restaurant labor, and sexual exploitation, while boys are trafficked for forced street hawking and forced labor in small workshops. Increasingly, young men and women are also being trafficked from other African countries, primarily for domestic servitude, but also for sexual exploitation. The majority of victims arrive by boat and are trafficked to Libreville and Port Gentil, though victims are found in smaller towns as well, including Oyem, Gamba, Tchibanga, and Franceville. Reports also indicate that some indigenous Pygmies are employed under slavery-like conditions, without effective recourse in the judicial system.
The Government of Gabon does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Nevertheless, Gabon is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for its failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat human trafficking over the previous year, particularly in terms of efforts to convict and punish trafficking offenders. Although the Gabonese government arrested and prosecuted trafficking suspects, it has not reported the convictions or sentences of any trafficking offenders.
Recommendations for Gabon: Increase efforts to prosecute, convict, and punish trafficking offenders; increase efforts to rescue victims; develop formal procedures to identify trafficking victims among females in prostitution; ensure the rescued child victims are appropriately protected in government custody; offer formalized legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they face hardship or retribution; sustain progress toward the complete elimination of the practice of placing victims in jail, even temporarily; and take steps to combat the labor exploitation of Pygmies.
The Government of Gabon demonstrated minimal anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts over the last year. While it arrested and is currently prosecuting several alleged traffickers, it reported no convictions. Gabon does not have one specific law that prohibits all forms of human trafficking; however, it does have several laws that collectively prohibit all forms of human trafficking. Gabonese law prohibits child labor trafficking through its 2004 Law Preventing and Combating Child Trafficking, which prescribes penalties of five to 15 years' imprisonment and a $20,000-$40,000 fine. Article 4, Title 1 of Law Number 3/94 criminalizes forced labor, prescribing inadequate penalties of one to six months' imprisonment and a possible fine of $700-$1,400. The procurement of a minor for the purpose of prostitution is prohibited under Penal Code Article 261, which prescribes a penalty of two to five years' imprisonment and a fine, a penalty that is sufficiently stringent but not commensurate with punishments prescribed for rape. Forced prostitution is prohibited by law number 21/63-94, which prescribes a penalty of two to 10 years imprisonment, which is sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for rape. The government reported arresting 16 female suspected traffickers between February 2007 and January 2008, eight of whom are awaiting trial and three of whom escaped. Five of these suspects were released due to "hardship," including the need to care for children. The government did not report any trafficking convictions in the last year. Authorities are currently investigating one suspected trafficking case involving a Beninese citizen. Gabon's effectiveness in prosecuting traffickers is handicapped by slow and inefficient legal procedures. Prosecutions of traffickers charged prior to 2007 have not moved forward. The Ministry of Justice is currently working on a project to assign judges for two year terms to work exclusively on trafficking cases.
The Government of Gabon demonstrated steady efforts to protect trafficking victims in the last year. Gabon operates three reception centers for destitute children, including trafficking victims, two in Libreville and one in Port Gentil, which provide shelter, medical care, and rehabilitation and reintegration services. One of the centers in Libreville is fully funded by the government, while the other two are financed jointly by the government and private donors. Child victims reside in these centers until arrangements are made for their repatriation, which the government requires be funded by the victims' employers or guardians. Staff at the centers work with foreign diplomatic missions to repatriate victims. One of these centers provided assistance to 80 trafficking victims and repatriated them using funds confiscated from traffickers. In addition, another center not sponsored by the government reported that it repatriated an additional 80 victims with some logistical assistance from the government. When security forces find trafficking victims, they place those under 16 years of age in government-operated shelters or temporary foster care, while older victims are referred to a Catholic NGO. Pursuant to an arrangement between Gabon and Nigeria, security officials refer Nigerian victims to the Nigerian Embassy in Libreville.
Security forces did not employ procedures to identify trafficking victims among individuals in prostitution. Gabon continued to operate its toll-free victim hotline in collaboration with UNICEF. The government covered the hotline's expenses, staffed it with government personnel and housed it in a government-owned building. While in previous years law enforcement officials did not interview victims for evidence at trial, authorities last year solicited victims' testimony. In previous years, victims were repatriated prior to trial, resulting in stalled prosecutions since cases cannot be prosecuted without victim testimony.
The Ministry of Justice works with foreign government agencies to keep foreign victims in Gabon and provide them with care, usually in a government-affiliated facility, until the prosecution makes its case. In February 2008, Gabon sponsored and funded a workshop for government, NGO, and international organization stakeholders to discuss strategies for providing better care to trafficking victims. The government provides de facto temporary residency status as an alternative to removing foreign victims to countries where they face hardship or retribution, and does not deport trafficked children. Victims are not inappropriately incarcerated or fined for unlawful acts as a direct result of being trafficked, although on occasion they have been housed in jails overnight, in separate quarters from criminal detainees and not confined to cells.
The Government of Gabon continued moderate efforts to raise awareness of trafficking during the last year. The government launched trafficking awareness-raising campaigns targeting communities in cities, towns, and villages outside the capital. Government representatives traveled to these areas to speak to community organizations and gendarmerie units about trafficking and existing laws prohibiting it. The government collaborated with an international NGO and other stakeholders to establish a network of anti-trafficking NGOs. In February 2008, the government and an international NGO released a collection of all laws and regulations concerning child trafficking to foster increased understanding of the problem. Gabon's Interministerial Committee to Combat Child Trafficking increased its level of activity, meeting weekly in the past year. However, the Committee continues to lack offices and a clearly defined budget. The government did not take steps to reduce demand for commercial sex acts during the year.