U.S. Department of State 2005 Trafficking in Persons Report - Gabon

Gabon (Tier 2)

Gabon is a destination country for children trafficked from Benin, Nigeria, Togo, and Guinea for the purposes of forced labor. Girls are employed in forced domestic servitude, market vending, and roadside restaurants. Boys are forcibly employed in small workshops and as street venders. Most trafficked children are employed in Libreville, but some are also found in smaller towns in the interior. Victims are typically trafficked into the country by boat and deposited on one of the many deserted beaches where the likelihood of detection is small.

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. For the first time, the government publicly recognized its responsibility to care for foreign trafficking victims found within its borders. As a result, it took unprecedented action to combat child trafficking, evident in the passage of comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation and arrests of alleged traffickers. Gabon is an emerging leader in the fight against human trafficking on the African sub-continent. To strengthen its current efforts to address trafficking, the government should continue to proactively investigate allegations of trafficking in persons, prosecute to conviction alleged traffickers, and equip the stalled inter-ministerial anti-trafficking committee to coordinate the government's activities.


Law enforcement efforts increased considerably during the year, though no convictions for trafficking offenses were reported. In September 2004, Gabon's anti-trafficking law was ratified by the National Assembly, signed by President Bongo, and promulgated. The law protects children under 18 against all forms of trafficking and provides for prison sentences of five to 15 years and stiff fines. Forced labor, slavery, abduction, and pimping are outlawed by the penal code. During the reporting period, the government actively investigated trafficking cases. In a January 2005 market sweep, the Gendarmes arrested 22 alleged child traffickers, the first trafficking in persons arrests in Gabon. Evidence in eight cases was determined strong enough to require the accused to stand trial and the suspects have been indicted and remain in custody awaiting prosecution. Four people were arrested in March 2005 on similar charges. In 2004, the National Police and Gendarmes began implementing strict visa and passport policies at the airport, resulting in the denial of entry to many children attempting to enter Gabon by air without the proper visa. The government initiated the creation of a regional law enforcement information-sharing hub on trafficking in persons and allocated to it office space, furniture, and several staff.


Gabon's trafficking victim protection services improved during the reporting period. The government fully funds the Agondje reception center for trafficking victims, which provides educational, medical, and psychological services. Children reside in the center until their repatriation is arranged and families are notified. Over 100 victims transited the center in 2004; most returned to their home country within six months. Security forces screened victims based on age; those 16 and under were placed in the government's center and older victims were transferred to a religious charity. The government regularly coordinated with the Nigerian Embassy to house and feed Nigerian victims. During the year, a 16-year-old trafficking victim identified herself to police in a remote part of Gabon; police coordinated her air travel to Libreville and placement in the center. In addition, the government provided office space and paid all operating expenses for the joint UNICEF-government trafficking hotline. The 24-hour hotline received 50 calls each day; an estimated ten per week were trafficking-related and police and UNICEF officials rescued an average of one or two child trafficking victims each week.


The government made appreciable progress in preventing trafficking in 2004. The president publicly led the fight against trafficking, making it a top issue in a number of cabinet meetings. Employees of the Ministry of Justice, through a group of women jurists, organized "town hall" meetings in each Libreville district to publicize Gabon's new anti-trafficking law. Both government and neighborhood leaders participated in these meetings. The government-controlled media – radio, television, and newspapers – extensively covered anti-trafficking stories, including the broadcasting of interviews with high-ranking officials. The Ministry of Education worked with UNICEF to prominently place anti-trafficking posters in government-run schools and other public venues.


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