Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 December 2017, 11:55 GMT

2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - The Gambia

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 27 June 2011
Cite as United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - The Gambia, 27 June 2011, available at: [accessed 14 December 2017]
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.

The Gambia (Tier 2 Watch List)

The Gambia is a source, transit, and destination country for children and women subjected forced labor and sex trafficking. Within The Gambia, women and girls and, to a lesser extent, boys are subjected to sex trafficking and domestic servitude. In the past, boys attending Koranic schools run by teachers known as marabouts were often forced to beg in the streets, but the Government of The Gambia reports that an increasing number of marabouts now force children into street vending, where they are more difficult to identify. Women, girls, and boys from West African countries – mainly Senegal, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, and Benin – are recruited for exploitation in the sex trade in The Gambia, in particular to meet the demands of European tourists seeking sex with children. Observers believe organized networks use travel agencies to promote child sex tourism, though none have been uncovered. There are reports that Europe-bound smuggling operations transiting Cape Verde and the Canary Islands using fishing boat include trafficking victims, but these reports may be based on a failure to distinguish human trafficking from the separate crime of migrant smuggling.

The Government of The Gambia 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 increasing efforts to address human trafficking over the previous year; therefore, The Gambia is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. The Gambian government failed to use its adequate anti-trafficking legal framework to investigate or prosecute any suspected trafficking cases during the reporting period. While it began to designate staff to serve on the National Agency Against Trafficking in Persons, it did not complete efforts to bring this agency into formal existence, as mandated by a 2007 law. The government claimed to monitor boys in street vending and unaccompanied girls in resorts known to be destinations of sex tourists, though it did not identify or provide protective services to any victims among these populations.

Recommendations for The Gambia: Distinguishing between human trafficking and migrant smuggling, increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses; train law enforcement personnel to distinguish trafficking from smuggling and to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as boys in street vending, unattended children in tourist resorts known to be sex tourism destinations, and women in prostitution, and refer them to protective services; institute trafficking awareness trainings for diplomats posted abroad; complete the formal establishment of the National Agency Against Trafficking in Persons and continue to allocate sufficient resources to operate it; begin to take measures to decrease the demand for commercial sex acts, specifically those committed by sex tourists; and increase efforts to raise public awareness about the dangers of trafficking.


The Government of The Gambia's anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts decreased during the reporting period. The Gambia prohibits all forms of trafficking through its October 2007 Trafficking in Persons Act, and in October 2010, The Gambian National Assembly approved an amendment to increase prescribed penalties to 50 years' to life imprisonment for all forms of trafficking. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The Gambia's 2005 Children's Act also prohibits child trafficking, though it does not include forced labor in its definition of trafficking, prescribing a penalty of life imprisonment, and the 2003 Tourism Offenses Act explicitly prohibits child sex trafficking, prescribing a penalty of 10 years' imprisonment. The government failed to convict any trafficking offenders during the year, though it reported initiating a prosecution of a marabout arrested in March 2011 for transporting boys to Senegal for forced begging. Authorities often conflated trafficking with migrant smuggling. No law enforcement officials were investigated, prosecuted, or convicted for involvement in human trafficking, although an international organization reported suspicions that an official of The Gambian Embassy in Mauritania was complicit in a case of cross-border child trafficking between Mauritania and Sierra Leone.


The Gambian government undertook inadequate efforts to protect trafficking victims during the year. Although it claimed to monitor the activities of children in Koranic schools who were forced into street vending, it did not rescue or provide services to any victims of forced street vending. The government repatriated seven Gambian children who had been found on the streets in Senegal, but made no efforts to determine whether they were victims of trafficking. In March 2011, the Department of Social Welfare repatriated 20 children who had been forced to beg in Senegal and provided them with protective services. The government operated a 24-hour hotline and allocated approximately $11,500 toward running a shelter and drop-in center that were available to trafficking victims; six boys who were victims of child sex tourism and 20 children repatriated from Senegal received medical screening and counseling at the shelter before being returned to their families. The Department of Social Welfare continued to maintain an electronic child protection database, which includes information on trafficking cases. No victims assisted in the investigation of trafficking offenses, but six boys served as witnesses in the trial of a suspected child sex tourist. The Trafficking in Persons Act allowed foreign victims to obtain temporary residence visas for the duration of legal proceedings, though the government did not offer long-term legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they face hardship or retribution. It is not known whether any victims were detained, fined, or jailed for unlawful acts committed as a result of being trafficked. Police conducted raids of brothels and detained or deported individuals in prostitution without employing efforts to identify trafficking victims among the population. The government provided staff to assist an NGO in conducting two three-day anti-trafficking training seminars for law enforcement officers and stakeholders in the tourism industry.


The government made limited efforts to prevent trafficking during the year. The Department of Social Welfare reports rescuing 19 street children who were at risk of being trafficked, and with assistance from an international NGO, repatriating 14 of these children to Mali, Guinea, Senegal, and Mauritania. Child sex tourism was a problem in The Gambia. The Tourism Security Unit (TSU) and The Gambia Tourism Authority claimed it compiled a list of suspected pedophiles and traffickers, though only one was identified during the year, a child sex tourist from Norway arrested in December 2010 for sexually exploiting six boys. Authorities report removing unattended children from resort areas, in accordance with a policy to combat child sex tourism, but this effort did not lead to the referral of any child trafficking victims to protective services or the apprehension of any traffickers. Members of the National Task Force for Combating Trafficking in Persons, which the government disbanded during the previous reporting year, continued to informally share information among themselves, but did not report taking any additional action. The Ministry of Justice began to recruit staff for the newly forming National Agency Against Trafficking in Persons, mandated by the 2007 Trafficking in Persons Act; a new Board of Directors was appointed in January 2011 and met twice since that time. The Agency has not yet entered into formal existence, and the government did not release the approximately $36,000 it budgeted for it during the previous year; this amount has been re-allocated for 2011. The government provided anti-trafficking training to Gambian troops before their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.

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