Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 January 2018, 09:04 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Mali

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Mali, 19 June 2012, available at: [accessed 24 January 2018]
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.

MALI (Tier 2)

Mali is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Within Mali, women and girls are forced into domestic servitude, agricultural labor, and support roles in artisanal gold mines, as well as subjected to sex trafficking. Malian boys are found in conditions of forced labor in agriculture, artisanal gold mines, and the informal commercial sector. Adult men and boys, primarily of Songhai ethnicity, are subjected to the longstanding practice of debt bondage in the salt mines of Taoudenni in northern Mali. Some members of Mali's black Tamachek community are subjected to traditional slavery-related practices rooted in hereditary master-slave relationships, and this involuntary servitude reportedly has extended to their children. Boys from Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Niger, and other countries are forced into begging and exploited for labor by corrupt marabouts (religious instructors) within Mali and in neighboring countries. Reports indicate that Malian children are transported to Senegal and Guinea for forced labor in gold mines and on cotton and cocoa farms in Cote d'Ivoire. Women and girls from other West African countries are subjected to prostitution in Mali. Malians and other Africans – who travel through Mali to Mauritania, Algeria, or Libya in hopes of reaching Europe – are particularly at risk of becoming victims of human trafficking. Malian girls and women are trafficked to Gabon, Libya, Lebanon, and Tunisia for commercial sexual exploitation.

The Government of Mali does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the reporting period, the government increased its efforts to prosecute and convict trafficking offenders, although these did not include cases of hereditary slavery – a problem that remains largely unaddressed. Law enforcement officials prosecuted 11 trafficking cases, convicted seven trafficking offenders, and identified at least 170 victims and referred them to local NGOs. The government provided in-kind donations to NGO-run multipurpose shelters, including paying for the services of doctors to care for trafficking victims' medical needs. It also sponsored awareness-raising events in all eight regions of the country and engaged in a series of bilateral events with regional partners on combating trafficking. Despite ministerial approval in June 2010, a bill outlawing all forms of trafficking, including slavery, has still not been brought to a vote in the National Assembly.

Recommendations for Mali: Improve efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, particularly cases of traditional slavery and forced prostitution, and convict and punish trafficking offenders; investigate and, as appropriate, prosecute trafficking offenses involving women and girls brought into and through the country for forced or child prostitution; enact draft legislation that prohibits and punishes all forms of trafficking in persons, including all forms of slavery; train law enforcement officials to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as women in prostitution and those in traditional slavery, and refer them to protective services; develop an improved system for collecting data on trafficking crimes and the number of victims identified and referred by government authorities to service providers for care; and increase efforts to raise public awareness about human trafficking, particularly traditional hereditary slavery.


The Government of Mali demonstrated increased anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the year. Mali does not prohibit all forms of trafficking, although Article 244 of the criminal code prohibits all forms of child trafficking. Child trafficking offenders convicted under Article 244 face penalties of five to 20 years' imprisonment; these penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. Article 229 of the criminal code criminalizes the sexual exploitation of children and forced prostitution of adult women, prescribing penalties of six months' to three years' imprisonment; these penalties are neither sufficiently stringent nor commensurate with other serious crimes, such as rape. Malian law may not adequately prohibit other forms of trafficking. Articles 242 and 243 of the criminal code prohibit forced labor, servitude, and other illegal labor practices. Slavery is prohibited by Malian law, but no penalty is prescribed for its commission. Article 242 of the criminal code, passed in 1973, prohibits individuals from entering into agreements or contracts that deprive third parties of their liberty. NGOs assert that the law, which has sometimes been characterized as an anti-slavery law, is inadequate to prosecute cases of hereditary slavery, which are not predicated on agreements or contracts entered into after 1973. In June 2010, the Council of Ministers approved an anti-trafficking bill, which, if enacted, would prohibit all forms of trafficking, although it does not adequately prohibit slavery. Despite concerted efforts by the Ministry of Justice to bring the bill before the National Assembly, it did not come to the floor for a vote during the reporting period. In 2011, the government, with assistance from international organizations and NGOs, began drafting a law criminalizing slavery. Despite NGO-led efforts to work with the courts in Northern Mali to hear pending and newly registered hereditary slavery cases, deterioration in security throughout northern Mali led to the August 2011 shutdown of all judicial courts in this region. Thus the government, which has not prosecuted a case of traditional slavery since 1969, has not taken action on at least three pending cases of traditional slavery that have been stalled in courts for more than three years.

The government reported investigating 24 new trafficking-related cases in 2011, prosecuting 11 cases and convicting seven trafficking offenders, a significant increase over the two cases investigated and prosecuted and two trafficking offenders convicted in 2010. Five of the seven offenders convicted in 2011 received sentences of five to 20 years' imprisonment; two offenders received three-year suspended sentences. In June 2011, Malian officials extradited two suspected Nigerian traffickers to Nigeria for prosecution by the National Agency for Prohibition of Traffic in Persons (NAPTIP). In November 2011, the Morals Brigade and Interpol joined forces with NAPTIP and raided four brothels in the capitol, Bamako, operated by Nigerian nationals. Four alleged traffickers were apprehended and transported to Nigeria on a Nigerian government-funded plane, along with approximately 104 potential female trafficking victims. In March 2012, gendarmes apprehended four individuals suspected of trafficking four Burkinabe boys for forced labor in Malian artisanal gold mines. As of March 2012, 12 trafficking-related prosecutions remained before the court. Due to the shutdown of the courts in the north, two cases of traditional slavery remained pending for a third year and four new civil lawsuits requesting the return of children allegedly held in traditional slavery were also put on hold. The government provided no anti-trafficking training to its officials. There was no evidence of government officials' involvement in human trafficking, although general corruption is seen as pervasive through the security forces and the judiciary. The government did not report efforts to investigate, prosecute, or punish acts of government employees' complicity in human trafficking.


The Government of Mali demonstrated increasing efforts to protect trafficking victims during the year. The government referred approximately 170 victims to NGOs and international organizations for assistance. The vast majority of the victims were initially identified by police, gendarmes, border control officers, or regional officials of the Ministry for the Promotion of Women, Children, and the Family. Border patrol officials stopped two suspected cross-border trafficking attempts, rescuing three Burkinabe children at the Mali-Guinea border, and five Malian girls at the Mali-Niger border. In 2011, the Ministry for Women, Children, and the Family appropriated the equivalent of $100,000 to support regional multipurpose welcome centers and family placement services for abused or trafficked children. Due to limited resources, the government did not directly offer shelter services, although its regional welcome centers received trafficking victims from law enforcement and other government officials and referred them to an NGO-operated shelter or other forms of care. The government paid for the services of doctors who cared for child trafficking victims in NGO-operated multipurpose facilities. Government officials periodically visited multipurpose shelters in the capital and brought large donations of milk, sugar, diapers, and other in-kind support to these organizations. The prime minister presented the equivalent of $600 to a shelter that cared for infants and children, some of whom may be trafficking victims. The government also provided the equivalent of $435 in direct aid to rescue and repatriate 19 Senegalese boys held in forced begging by a corrupt Malian marabout. The government did not report identifying or assisting any victims of traditional slavery. Despite increasing reports of large numbers of children forced to labor in artisanal gold mines within Mali, the government cited a lack of personnel and resources to adequately identify and rescue victims in this sector. There were no reports that trafficking victims were penalized for unlawful acts they committed as a result of being trafficked.


The Government of Mali made modest efforts to prevent trafficking during the last year. In October 2011, the Ministry of Malians Abroad held a workshop in Bamako to educate approximately 5,000 Malians about the dangers of illegal migration to Europe, including the possibility of becoming a victim of human trafficking. In January and February 2012, the Ministry of Malians Abroad sponsored awareness raising debates on human trafficking in all eight of Mali's regions. The chair of the National Coordinating Committee for the Fight against Trafficking in Persons and the head of the Malian National Unit for the Fight against Child Labor participated in international meetings in Cote d'Ivoire, Togo, Senegal, and Guinea-Bissau to further coordinate regional trafficking prevention. As part of the Mali-Cote d'Ivoire bilateral accord, the Malian and Ivoirian first ladies met in October 2011 to intensify their efforts against human trafficking. In November 2011, the National Coordinating Committee, the National Unit for the Fight Against Child Labor, the Committee to Track Child Labor, and local NGOs gathered and agreed to regular meetings, a standardized intake process, and common forms and tools for use by police, ministry officials, regional directorates, and NGOs in addressing child victims of trafficking. The government took no visible measures to decrease the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to Malian troops prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.

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