SIERRA LEONE (Tier 2 Watch List)

Sierra Leone is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Victims originate largely from rural provinces within the country, and are recruited to urban and mining centers for the purposes of exploitation in prostitution, domestic servitude, and forced service or labor in artisanal diamond and granite mining, petty trading, portering, rock-breaking, street crime, and begging. Trafficking victims may also be found in the fishing and agriculture sectors or are subjected to sex trafficking or forced labor through customary practices such as forced and arranged marriages. Sierra Leoneans voluntarily migrate to other West African countries, including Mauritania and Guinea, as well as to the Middle East and Europe, where they are subsequently subjected to forced labor and forced prostitution. Sierra Leone may also be a destination country for children trafficked from Nigeria, and possibly from The Gambia, Cote d'Ivoire, and Guinea, for forced begging, forced labor, and exploitation in prostitution.

The Government of Sierra Leone 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 progress in addressing human trafficking over the previous year; therefore; Sierra Leone is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. Awareness of existing anti-trafficking laws remained weak, courts convicted no trafficking offenders, and fewer suspects were charged with trafficking crimes compared with the previous year. While the government acknowledged that trafficking is a problem in the country, it did not make efforts to identify trafficking victims, to allocate adequate financial or human resources to provide protective services to victims, or to educate the population about the dangers of trafficking. The national trafficking in persons task force re-submitted a budget request in late 2011, but as with past years, the funding had not been approved by the end of the reporting period.

Recommendations for Sierra Leone: Increase penalties prescribed under law for sex trafficking offenses; increase efforts to prosecute, convict, and punish trafficking offenders using the 2005 Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act; finalize the draft national action plan; in collaboration with civil society organizations, train police and prosecutors to identify, investigate, and prosecute trafficking cases; ensure that draft anti-trafficking legislation provides a clear definition of trafficking and does not conflate it with the separate crime of migrant smuggling, and enact such legislation; include funding for anti-trafficking activities in the national budget and begin allocating funds accordingly through the appropriate government structures, such as the national trafficking in persons task force; train law enforcement officers and social workers to identify trafficking victims proactively among vulnerable populations, such as women in prostitution, unaccompanied minors, or undocumented migrants, and provide them with protective services; increase partnership with NGOs and support their efforts either financially or through in-kind donations; improve efforts to collect data on anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts and victim assistance; in collaboration with civil society organizations, increase efforts to raise public awareness about the dangers of trafficking; and ratify the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.


The Government of Sierra Leone's anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts decreased in 2011. The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2005 prohibits all forms of human trafficking and prescribes a maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment or a fine of the equivalent of approximately $4,650 for both sex and labor trafficking offenses. These penalties are sufficiently stringent, but not commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes, such as rape. During the reporting period, prosecutions were initiated against four alleged trafficking offenders and none were convicted, compared with 18 suspected trafficking offenders prosecuted and six convicted during the previous reporting period. The cases that were prosecuted involved: the attempted sale of a 65-year-old male; the attempted sale of a 16-year-old girl; the commercial sexual exploitation of a 10-year-old girl and a 13-year-old girl. In addition, in January 2012, the court remanded a suspected trafficker for attempting to traffic a young man. The draft anti-trafficking legislation submitted to the cabinet for review in November 2010 has not yet been passed by the legislature or enacted into law. Members of the task force reported the bill would establish a national anti-trafficking agency and guarantee government funding for its activities, increase prescribed penalties for trafficking offenses, and require the provision of protective services for victims. The government did not provide information about the status of 17 investigations pending at the close of the previous reporting period. The government did not provide specialized training to its officials on investigating or prosecuting human trafficking offenses; however, the Sierra Leone police continued to use manuals produced by an NGO to train new recruits to identify trafficking victims. The government did not report any investigations or prosecutions of public officials complicit in human trafficking; however, the Sierra Leonean Ambassador to Belgium is currently under investigation by the Belgian police for allegedly trafficking three Sierra Leonean citizens to Belgium for domestic servitude.


During the year, the Sierra Leonean government demonstrated limited efforts to protect child trafficking victims, the most significant population of trafficking victims in the country. In 2011, the government identified four foreign trafficking victims – from Nigeria, Liberia, Cote d'Ivoire, and The Gambia – but failed to identify any Sierra Leonean victims. Despite growing concern over the number of street children who remain vulnerable to trafficking, the Government of Sierra Leone did not undertake proactive measures to identify victims among this or other vulnerable populations. The government relied on NGOs and international organizations to identify and provide services for trafficking victims; NGOs identified 91 victims in 2011. Identified victims were referred to the national task force and local NGOs on the task force referred an unknown number of child victims to NGO-run orphanages, reformatory schools, or schools for street children, as no dedicated facility for trafficking victims existed. Victims were not encouraged to participate in the investigation of cases, and police cited victims' failure to appear in court as a common reason for the dismissal of cases. There were no reports that victims were detained, fined, or jailed for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked; however, the government did not make adequate efforts to identify trafficking victims, which may have led to some victims being treated as offenders.


The government displayed limited progress in preventing trafficking during the reporting period. The inter-ministerial national trafficking in persons task force, comprised of representatives from government ministries, NGOs, international organizations, and diplomatic missions, met bi-monthly during the year and completed drafting an updated national action plan for 2011-2013. The government took no discernible efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. The government did not provide Sierra Leonean troops anti-trafficking training prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions, though such training was provided by a foreign donor. Sierra Leone is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.


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