Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 August 2014, 14:59 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - France

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - France, 19 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fe30cc932.html [accessed 20 August 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, South Asia, or Brazil, 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 involved a small number of diplomats. Victims in domestic servitude are often falsely promised education; when they arrive in France, they are required to surrender their passports and live in isolation in the family's household. The Government of France estimates that the majority of the 20,000 people in France's commercial sex trade, about 75 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. The economic crisis in neighboring countries has led to an increase in the number of child victims of trafficking. The government observed an increase in the number of criminal networks exercising violence against people in prostitution, including Chinese victims. Roma and other unaccompanied minors in France continued to be vulnerable to forced begging and forced theft. Some French citizens were documented to have participated in sex tourism in foreign countries. Women and children from Brazil and Guyana were subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking in the French overseas territory of French Guiana.

The Government of France fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government's number of criminal cases classified as trafficking rather than as pimping, however, remained far below the estimated occurrence of trafficking in France. A report to parliament concluded that the charging of trafficking cases as pimping impaired international collaboration on criminal cases. Furthermore, victim protection efforts were limited by the system for granting residence permits to trafficking victims. According to experts, France did not administer its residency permit system for trafficking victims in a victim-centered manner, instead putting the needs of criminal investigations before the exigencies of victim care. Nevertheless, the French government funds a range of victim services through dedicated anti-trafficking NGOs. Law enforcement authorities also continued to increase the number of offenders convicted under the trafficking statute. The government enhanced transparency through a broad congressional inquiry and reporting effort aimed at improving conditions for sex trafficking victims and individuals in prostitution.

Recommendations for France: Increase implementation of France's anti-trafficking statute, as directed in the Ministry of Justice Circular of November 1, 2009; increase anti-trafficking training for prosecutors and judges, ensuring that emphasis is placed on increasing the use of the trafficking statute; 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, including through offering more training to officials who work in asylum; 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; ensure that victims are thoroughly explained their rights, including the right to a residence permit and the prosecutor's discretion to give a residence permit in the absence of a conviction, at the outset of any contact with the victim; enhance collection and compilation of law enforcement and victim assistance data, including a breakdown of types of involuntary servitude and prosecutions for forced labor; 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; establish an independent national rapporteur to ensure consistent self-evaluation on anti-trafficking activities; explore methods to improve trafficking victims' access to restitution through the Crime Victims Compensation Program; and report on assistance provided to identified victims of trafficking in mainland France and in French Guinea.

Prosecution

The Government of France made modest anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period; the majority of trafficking offenses were still charged under non-trafficking 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 trafficking offenses. These prescribed penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape. The government continued to implement the policy specified in a Ministry of Justice circular, urging prosecutors to charge cases under the trafficking statute more frequently, even when those cases are also charged as pimping, exploitation of begging, or under labor statutes. Nevertheless, a report before parliament concluded that the trafficking statute remained under-utilized in trafficking cases. The government had difficulty collecting and reporting current data on its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. In 2011, French law enforcement authorities placed 40 individuals under formal investigation for human trafficking and opened 10 new trafficking cases under Article 225-4. In 2010, the most recent year for which comprehensive data was available, French authorities convicted approximately 19 offenders under Article 225-4-2, an aggravated trafficking section, compared with convictions in three cases in 2009. The government also convicted 42 offenders for the prostitution of children in 2010, compared with 17 convictions for the prostitution of children in 2009. In addition, in 2010, the government convicted 24 individuals for the exploitation of begging, including at least two offenders for forcing individuals into begging through violence or constraint. Some trafficking cases may be reflected in the 508 convictions under the aggravated anti-pimping statute; approximately 15 percent of the original arrests in those cases were for trafficking-specific offenses. In 2010, trafficking offenders were sentenced to up to 30 years' imprisonment, though some offenders were sentenced to terms of two years imprisonment with serious fines. Some severe trafficking offenders continued to receive very serious sentences; in 2011, two trafficking offenders charged under non-trafficking statutes were sentenced to terms of thirty years' imprisonment, the highest sentence available under French law. Experts observed that trafficking prosecutions were difficult when certain parts of the trafficking offense, such as recruitment, took place outside of the country, thus requiring international collaboration. The parliamentary report concluded that judges were reserving the use of the trafficking statute for cases in which the offense was especially serious, but cautioned that both victim protection and international cooperation was better in cases charged under the trafficking statute because foreign governments responded to requests for information more readily in trafficking cases, instead of pimping cases. The Central Office for Combating Human Trafficking served as the specialist and coordinating unit of the police, providing guidance to anti-trafficking prosecutions throughout the country. The Ministry of Justice trained prosecutors and magistrates on France's anti-trafficking laws. The French government trained police and distributed pocket-sized cards to border police and NGOs on how to identify trafficking victims. NGOs objected that authorities did not always grant protection to trafficking victims' families during the course of trial; as a consequence, some trafficking victims' families have been vulnerable to retaliation by traffickers. French law enforcement authorities collaborated with several governments, including authorities in Romania, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Nigeria, and Brazil, to investigate human trafficking cases. This year, the government investigated high profile sex trafficking cases involving trafficking networks from Eastern Europe, Brazil, and Nigeria. The government did not report the investigation, prosecution, conviction, or sentencing of any public official for complicity in trafficking in persons.

Protection

The government sustained its victim protection efforts during the reporting period, although the residency permit system did not, in practice, offer protection to the majority of trafficking victims. The Government of France managed its anti-trafficking protection program, named Ac-Sé, for adult trafficking victims through a network of 49 NGO shelters funded, in part, by the central government and the City of Paris. Ac-Sé assists vulnerable adult victims of sex or labor trafficking; the program assisted over 60 victims of trafficking in 2011, providing shelter, legal, medical, and psychological services. Victims were also given access to French language classes and could have qualified for subsidized housing and job training programs. In 2010, Ac-Sé assisted approximately 50 victims. These victims receive the equivalent of approximately $450 as an initial stipend from the government, and approximately $150 per month subsequently. NGOs objected that the financial stipend was insufficient to permit victims to rehabilitate successfully. Victims had to wait an average of 40 days for access to a shelter. Other NGOs, partially funded by the central or municipal governments, operated shelters and emergency apartments to give care to other trafficking victims. While French authorities did not report overall funding allocations to NGOs for victims of trafficking, the central government, municipal governments, and the City of Paris provided at least the equivalent of three million dollars to NGOs for victim assistance in 2011.

The government reported that police identified 654 trafficking victims in 2011; French authorities identified 688 trafficking victims in 2010. The government did not report the number of victims it referred to care. Ac-Sé had guidelines for victim identification. Nevertheless, reports concluded that some first responders, including those interacting with asylum applicants, needed a stronger and more proactive response to victim identification. The report observed that some trafficking victims attempted to claim asylum with stories devised by traffickers.

Victims of trafficking were eligible for six months' or one year's temporary residency permits, provided they file a formal complaint against their exploiters and made efforts to reintegrate into French society. Victims of trafficking may work or leave the country during trial proceedings. These permits were available during the duration of the criminal process and automatically become permanent upon an offender's conviction. In cases in which offenders were not convicted, local prefects had the discretion to grant permanent residency cards to victims. Nevertheless, victims are often not informed that prosecutors have this discretion until they are deported. A government-funded report concluded that these residency permits were insufficient for granting all trafficking victims effective access to justice, particularly when the case was not formally classified under the trafficking statute. The French government did not report the number of trafficking-specific residency permits granted, but a report to parliament concluded that very few trafficking victims benefitted from the residency permits and that these permits were not always available to victims when the trafficking offenders had already been identified. The Ministry of Justice reports that it is focusing on improving the consistent and effective application of the temporary residency regulations throughout France. A limited number of trafficking victims also received permanent residency in cases of grave threat through the National Asylum Court. Trafficking victims were eligible to receive restitution through the Crime Victims Compensation Program; only two victims of trafficking have received compensation through the program since its inception. There were no reports that identified trafficking victims were penalized for crimes committed as a direct result of their being trafficked.

Prevention

The government sustained its prevention efforts during the reporting period. The City of Paris, the Interior Ministry, the Justice Ministry, and NGOs launched a working group in February 2012 to address sex trafficking, focusing on improving victim housing and reintegration. The French government supported anti-trafficking projects in many countries, including through direct funding of victim care through French embassies. The government, through the French International Technical Police Cooperation Service and French embassies, also funded training for foreign governments on trafficking victim identification and prosecution. The French government works closely with source countries on preventing trafficking. In January 2012, France and Bulgaria began a joint project to prevent trafficking in persons. The French government funded programs through airlines and tourism operators describing the penalties for sex tourism. The French government took criminal action against some French citizens who had engaged in sex tourism abroad. In July 2011, a Paris magistrate investigated a 65-year-old French citizen for sexual abuse of minors in the Philippines. France requested the extradition of a French citizen, accused of engaging in sex tourism abroad, who had been convicted of similar crimes in France. All tourism students in France were obligated to take course work on preventing sex tourism. The French government cooperated with other EU countries to identify common trafficking victim identification guidelines. In 2011, the French government focused on addressing the demand for commercial sex. In April 2011, parliament released an extensive report on prostitution in France, as part of an effort to examine how best to shape policy on prostitution, including addressing demand. Nevertheless, the French government did not take any broad based public awareness campaigns on human trafficking. The French government provided anti-trafficking training to all peacekeeping troops prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.

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