FRANCE (Tier 1)
France is a destination country for women and girls trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation from Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, and Malaysia and other Asian countries. Men, women and children continued to be trafficked for the purposes of forced labor, including domestic servitude, many from Africa. Often their "employers" are diplomats who enjoy diplomatic immunity, including those from Saudi Arabia. The government estimates that of the 15,000 to 18,000 women in France's commercial sex trade, the majority – possibly 10,000 to 12,000 – are likely victims of sex trafficking. The government identified 1,002 trafficking victims in 2007, of which 76 percent were foreigners. There is a significant number of Romanian minors in France, many of whom are vulnerable to trafficking. Many traffickers evade law enforcement detection by acquiring fake Sudanese passports to claim asylum or acquire fake Romanian passports to avoid visa requirements. The Committee Against Modern Slavery reported that there were 164 cases of forced labor in France in 2008.
Reports continued of trafficking from Brazil to the French overseas territory of French Guiana. There are also a number of young women in prostitution from Haiti and the Dominican Republic in French Guiana, some of whom may be vulnerable to trafficking. There is evidence some Chinese laborers in French Guiana may be in conditions of forced labor. French authorities there reported that they regularly investigate sex work cases to identify potential trafficking victims, though none have been identified.
The Government of France fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The French government took steps to improve its overall coordination on trafficking and provided training to improve identification and protection of trafficking victims.
Recommendations for France: Increase efforts to put to use France's anti-trafficking statute; enhance collection and compilation of law enforcement data on trafficking ; ensure trafficking victims are not inappropriately penalized solely for unlawful acts as a result of being trafficked; establish a formal national referral mechanism and procedures for victim identification among vulnerable populations, such as those in prostitution, domestic and other labor sectors; follow-through on plans to create 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; and intensify investigations of potential trafficking cases in French Guiana and report on assistance provided to identified victims.
The Government of France demonstrated progress in its efforts to investigate, prosecute, convict, and sentence trafficking offenders. France prohibits trafficking for both sexual and labor exploitation through Article 225 of its penal code, which prescribes penalties that are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for rape. The Ministry of Interior dismantled 30 trafficking networks in France in 2008. The Ministry of Justice reported that 19 individuals were convicted in France under anti-trafficking laws in 2007, the latest year for which official prosecution data is available. All 19 were serving jail time of up to seven years. French officials continued to rely almost exclusively on anti-pimping provisions of the country's penal code to investigate and prosecute suspected sex trafficking offenses. They also prosecuted labor trafficking offenders under other statutes. During the reporting period, the government trained some 200 prosecutors to make better use of France's anti-trafficking law instead of relying primarily on anti-pimping laws to address sex trafficking offenses. In October 2008, the French government created a joint anti-trafficking unit with Belgian law enforcement counterparts, reportedly the first of its kind within the EU.
Officials in French Guiana reported two trafficking investigations in the territory during the reporting period, one involving the possible forced labor of Chinese victims and the other a sex trafficking case involving a Brazilian minor. There were no reported prosecutions or convictions of trafficking offenders in French Guiana during the reporting period.
The Government of France demonstrated progress in the protection of trafficking victims during the reporting period. In November, the Minister of Justice announced an additional $14.7 million in support for victim protection for 2009. The government provided training to law enforcement personnel to increase their identification of potential trafficking victims and created and distributed pocket-sized cards containing victim identification guidelines to border police and NGOs in 2008. In 2008, the French government continued implementation of its 2003 Domestic Security law that allowed for arrest and fining of potential sex trafficking victims for "passive solicitation." Out of 1,072 women in prostitution arrested for soliciting, 881 were foreigners and identified by the government as likely trafficking victims. The government of France reported they were not charged or imprisoned; it is unknown whether or not the government referred them to service providers for assistance. NGOs and international experts continued to criticize the government's lack of a proactive approach to identifying trafficking victims. According to NGOs, including Amnesty International, trafficking victims are treated as offenders, arrested, and charged for soliciting prostitution, and foreign victims are likely deported. According to an Amnesty International Report, some victims of trafficking have been accused of 'living off immoral earnings' alongside their traffickers. The government has challenged the report's findings. NGOs complained that the government did not employ systematic efforts to ensure victims access to shelter and services provided by NGOs through a formal referral process.
The national government and city of Paris continued to fund NGOs providing a network of services and shelter for trafficking victims. In cases in which victims were repatriated to their home country, the government worked with the relevant government to ensure safety and medical care. The French government provided witness protection services and issued one-year residency cards, which can be renewed every subsequent six months, to victims of trafficking who cooperated with authorities in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers. The national government did not provide data on the total number of victims given shelter and assistance or the number that received residence cards in 2008. NGOs claim that some trafficking victims who denounced their traffickers were never granted residency papers, or received very provisional residency permits and were offered no protection from retaliation. In 2008, Paris police reported issuance of 92 residency permits to undocumented migrants believed to have been victims of trafficking. The government provided funding to victims, including a monthly stipend of $464, as well as medical care, legal counsel, shelter, and psychological counseling. The Government of France formally assists trafficking victims seeking return to their countries of origin, though only five percent usually decide to do so.
The government made some progress on renewing a bilateral agreement with Romania to continue cooperation on the protection, return, and reintegration of Romanian unaccompanied minors, but has not yet ratified this 2007 agreement.
National and local authorities in French Guiana indicated a sensitivity to allegations that individuals have been forced into prostitution or in labor sectors, including illegal mining, but to date have identified only two possible cases of trafficking.
The Government of France continued to fund trafficking prevention campaigns in association with NGOs during the reporting period, including an NGO awareness campaign aimed at reducing the demand for commercial sex acts. In 2008, the government sponsored a nationwide conference to bring together law enforcement officials and NGOs to improve cooperation and communication in protecting victims and preventing trafficking. In December 2008, the government established a multi-disciplinary working group to create a national action plan on the protection of trafficking victims. OCRTEH (Central Office for the Repression of Trafficking in Persons) continued to serve as the government's operational and political focal point on trafficking. The government provided all French military personnel with general training on trafficking during their basic training. There was also a three-week general training given to French military personnel before their deployment abroad for international peacekeeping missions.
The government provided funding for an NGO to place several advertisements in French weekly and travel magazines warning possible sex tourists against engaging in sex with minors. In August 2008, authorities arrested and indicted a high school professor on charges related to child sex tourism committed in Burma and Thailand. In March 2009, two men were convicted in a French court on child sex tourism charges stemming from their acts in Cambodia and Thailand; the court handed them the maximum penalty of seven years in prison. Sex tourism from French Guiana to Oiapoque and other destinations in Brazil has been reported.