Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 - Special Cases - Somalia

Somalia remains a special case for a sixth consecutive year due to the lack of a viable central government since 1991. Its geographic area is divided among the self-declared independent Republic of Somaliland, the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, and the remainder of the country, which is nominally under the control of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). During the reporting period, the TFG remained preoccupied with the task of securing government representatives and installations from threats posed by extremist elements; human trafficking was not viewed as an issue of immediate priority. In addition, the TFG currently lacks the necessary means to identify, investigate, or address systemic issues in Somalia, including those related to trafficking in persons; its capacity to address human trafficking will not increase without tangible progress in reestablishing governance and stability in Somalia.

Scope and Magnitude. Information regarding trafficking in Somalia remains extremely difficult to obtain or verify; however, the Somali territory is believed to be a source, transit, and destination country for trafficked men, women, and children. In Somali society, certain groups are traditionally viewed as inferior and are marginalized; Somali Bantus and Midgaan are sometimes kept in servitude to other more powerful Somali clan members as domestics, farm laborers, and herders. During the year, the TFG and extremist groups opposed to them reportedly conscripted children for use in armed conflict. Armed militias purportedly internally traffic Somali women and children for sexual exploitation and forced labor. Because of an inability to provide care for all family members, some Somalis willingly surrender custody of their children to people with whom they share family relations and clan linkages; some of these children may become victims of forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation. There are anecdotal reports of children engaged in prostitution, but the practice is culturally proscribed and not publicly acknowledged. Human smuggling is widespread in Somalia and there is evidence to suggest that traffickers utilize the same networks and methods as those used by smugglers. Dubious employment agencies are involved with or serve as fronts for traffickers, especially to target individuals destined for the Gulf States. Somali women are trafficked to destinations in the Middle East, including Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria, as well as to South Africa, for domestic labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Somali men are trafficked into labor exploitation as herdsmen and menial workers in the Gulf States. Somali children are reportedly trafficked to Djibouti, Malawi, and Tanzania for commercial sexual exploitation and exploitative child labor. Ethiopian women are trafficked through Somalia to the Middle East for forced labor and sexual exploitation. Small numbers of Cambodian men are trafficked to work on long range fishing boats operating off the coast of Somalia.

Government Efforts. The respective authorities operating in Somalia's three regions did not make significant progress in addressing human trafficking during the reporting period. There are laws in the Republic of Somaliland explicitly prohibiting forced labor, involuntary servitude, and slavery, but no specific laws exist against these practices in other parts of Somalia. Trafficking for sexual exploitation may be prohibited under the most widespread interpretations of Shari'a and customary law, but there is neither a unified police force in the territory to enforce these laws, nor any authoritative legal system through which traffickers could be prosecuted. In south central Somalia, the TFG's Ministry of National Security and Internal Affairs is, in theory, responsible for anti-trafficking efforts, but lacks operational capacity and awareness of human trafficking; it made no concrete efforts to combat the crime during 2007. In Puntland, the Ministry of the Interior and the Refugees Affairs Commission take the lead on trafficking issues. Puntland authorities operated a temporary transit and processing center where Ethiopian migrants receive counseling and assistance from local and international humanitarian organizations. After a government restructuring in Somaliland, both the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Security claim to take the lead on human trafficking issues. In 2007, the Somaliland Human Rights Commission began a study of human trafficking in Somaliland.

Government officials are not trained to identify or assist trafficking victims and took no known action against the practice. In the absence of effective systems of revenue generation, as well as any legal means to collect resources and then distribute them for some common good, no resources are devoted to preventing trafficking or to victim protection across the majority of the Somali territory. There are limited private initiatives to provide victim protection in all of the regions. There are reports that government officials may be involved in trafficking; business people involved in smuggling in Puntland, for instance, purportedly enjoy protection and work with the knowledge of influential officials within the administration. Somalia has not ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.


This 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.