The Government of Cabo Verde does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore Cabo Verde was upgraded to Tier 2. The government demonstrated increasing efforts by prosecuting and convicting two sex traffickers; providing shelter and services to identified trafficking victims, including the first report of the government referring a trafficking victim to a government-run shelter for care; conducting several awareness-raising campaigns on trafficking, including child sex trafficking; and approving its first anti-trafficking national action plan covering 2018-2021. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government did not train law enforcement or judiciary officials on trafficking investigations and prosecutions; officials remained without formal procedures to identify trafficking victims and refer them to care; and the Ministry of Justice and Labor (MJT) did not receive any funding specifically for anti-trafficking efforts, including for implementation of the national action plan.


Vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses and convict and punish traffickers – including Cabo Verdean-American sex traffickers; develop and train officials on standardized procedures to identify trafficking victims – including adults and victims among vulnerable populations – and a mechanism to refer victims to services; train law enforcement and judiciary officials on the 2015 anti-trafficking amendment, article 271-A; through consistent referrals to government and NGO shelters, ensure all identified trafficking victims receive care, and collect data on such efforts; allocate resources to MJT to coordinate inter-ministerial anti-trafficking actions and implement the national action plan; undertake efforts to engage community members on preventing and reporting child sex trafficking; educate law enforcement that children younger than 18 exploited in sex trafficking are trafficking victims, and robustly investigate such cases, especially in high-tourist areas; increase efforts to raise public awareness of human trafficking, including child sex trafficking and domestic servitude; increase collaboration with foreign governments on cases of transnational trafficking; and develop a system to compile and share comprehensive anti-trafficking law enforcement and victim identification data among agencies.


The government increased anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The penal code criminalized labor and sex trafficking. Article 271 of the penal code criminalized slavery with penalties of six to 12 years imprisonment, and article 271-A criminalized all other forms of labor trafficking and sex trafficking and prescribed penalties of four to 10 years imprisonment; these penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regards to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.

During the reporting period, the attorney general's office published data on trafficking cases for the first time since the promulgation of article 271-A in 2015. The government investigated eight sex trafficking cases, prosecuted four suspects, and convicted two traffickers, compared with seven investigations and the prosecution and conviction of one trafficker the previous reporting period. Among the eight investigations, law enforcement initiated two during the reporting period and continued six from the previous reporting period. One investigation led to the prosecution of four suspects; the judge convicted two traffickers and prescribed sentences of 33 and 14 years imprisonment, respectively, and acquitted two alleged facilitators. Seven investigations involving foreigners in sex trafficking were ongoing at the end of the reporting period. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses. The government began working with a foreign government to facilitate the extradition of a suspected trafficker, subject of an ongoing investigation in Cabo Verde.

Officials admitted law enforcement and judges lacked understanding of trafficking crimes and the 2015 anti-trafficking amendment, which inhibited their ability to identify, investigate, and prosecute trafficking cases. While it did not provide training to such officials, the government provided modest financial support to enable 12 law enforcement and justice officials to attend an international anti-trafficking training. In addition, an international organization provided anti-trafficking training, including victim identification, to new police officers during standard academy training. Insufficient staffing and a lack of resources confined the judicial police's presence to four of the country's nine inhabited islands, impeding the government's ability to identify victims, investigate crimes, and collect comprehensive data. Due to strong community ties, citizens often did not report, and often would not testify against other members of their communities in, cases of abuse, including trafficking. In addition, government social service providers preferred to resolve intra-familial abuse cases – which could include child sex trafficking – through non-judicial means.


The government maintained efforts to identify and protect trafficking victims, and increased reporting on such efforts. Although it did not provide statistics on the number of trafficking victims identified and referred to care, the government identified at least five sex trafficking victims in the course of human trafficking investigations. This was similar to six sex trafficking victims identified in the previous reporting period, and an increase in referrals to care. The government did not have formal procedures for law enforcement or social workers to identify trafficking victims, nor did it have a formal mechanism to refer trafficking victims to care, but the new national action plan called for the MJT to coordinate all victim care. The government conducted several ad hoc trainings on these topics for law enforcement and social services personnel. Border police had written procedures to identify trafficking victims and people vulnerable to trafficking, although they did not receive training on such procedures. With an NGO, the Cabo Verdean Institute for Children and Adolescents (ICCA) trained NGOs, civil society leaders, judges, and police on Sal and Boa Vista islands to identify and refer trafficking victims to care; however, many authorities remained unable to differentiate sex trafficking from sexual abuse and negligence, which resulted in incomplete data on trafficking victims identified.

An international organization trained government officials and NGOs on three islands on how to create protection plans for child victims of sexual and gender-based violence, including sex trafficking, and such plans included referral procedures. There were no shelters or services specifically for trafficking victims, but government-funded agencies provided emergency services, temporary shelter, and psycho-social care to at-risk populations and female and child victims of crime that trafficking victims could access. ICCA operated a national network to assist child victims of sexual abuse, which could coordinate referral to care and support throughout court processes. Law enforcement and first responders generally referred all victims to either ICCA (for child victims), the Public Ministry (for victims requiring long-term care), or MJT, who then referred child victims of any crime to ICCA and women to the Cabo Verdean Institute for Gender Equality (ICIEG) or an NGO. The government acknowledged the ad hoc, informal referral system was insufficient. ICCA did not report screening for trafficking among victims referred to its shelters. ICCA operated two shelters that provided temporary shelter and care for child victims of sexual abuse, violence, and abandonment, and maintained five protection and social reinsertion centers, which provided services for children experiencing long-term trauma, including trafficking. ICCA had six primary shelters on two of Cabo Verde's nine inhabited islands and staff on all nine islands. During the reporting period, ICIEG opened its first shelter in Cabo Verde for victims of domestic violence, which trafficking victims could access. The government-funded, and police provided security for, ICCA and ICIEG shelters. Law enforcement referred at least four child sex trafficking victims to ICCA for care. The government did not provide psycho-social services to foreign trafficking victims before repatriation, and it did not report if it assisted six trafficking victims identified in the previous reporting period who remained in the country.

Law enforcement could conduct sex trafficking victim interviews in collaboration with psychologists and, in cases of children, the victims' parents, to provide a comfortable and safe environment. The government did not report if it provided these benefits to any victims during the reporting period. Cabo Verdean law does not provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution; however, it could grant temporary residence and visas to trafficking victims on an ad hoc basis, and authorities provided these benefits to at least two sex trafficking victims from Senegal and Nigeria during the reporting period. The law did not provide for restitution or allow victims to file civil suits against traffickers. The 2011 law against sexual and gender-based violence provided a limited stipend for victims of sexual and gender-based violence, including sex trafficking victims, who faced life-threatening situations, although the government did not report providing this funding to any victims during the reporting period. There were no reports officials fined, detained, or penalized trafficking victims for unlawful acts committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking; due to the lack of formal victim identification procedures, however, some victims may have remained unidentified in the law enforcement system.


The government increased prevention efforts. MJT, in collaboration with other ministries and NGOs, drafted the government's first ever trafficking-specific national action plan covering 2018-2021. MJT had the lead for anti-trafficking efforts, although it did not receive any funding specifically for anti-trafficking activities, including implementation of the action plan, which impeded its ability to lead such efforts. ICCA continued to operate three centers for street children through its Nos Kaza project and six day centers, all of which aimed to reduce the vulnerability of street children to forced labor and sexual abuse, including sex trafficking. ICCA operated a hotline to report cases of violence against children, including trafficking, but it did not receive any reports of trafficking during the reporting period. Hotline workers did not have training to differentiate trafficking from similar crimes, such as child labor or sexual abuse. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor; however, it took action to reduce the supply of and demand for child sex tourism. The Sal Judicial Police and ICCA reported an unspecified number of cases in which parents were convicted of negligence for failing to protect their children from child sex tourists; most of the parents received suspended sentences and the children were referred to ICCA for care. Government ministries continued to implement the 2017-2019 National Plan to Combat Sexual Abuse and Violence, which included child sex tourism. Through the Ethics Code of Conduct for Tourism, MJT and police collaborated with European tourism operators to discourage the facilitation of child sex tourism on Sal and Boa Vista islands. In addition, MJT, police, and ICCA worked with a foreign donor to discourage child sex tourism on Fogo.


As reported over the past five years, Cabo Verde is primarily a source country for children subjected to sex trafficking within the country and a destination for women in forced prostitution. Boys and girls, some of whom may be foreign nationals, are victims of sex trafficking on Brava, Santiago, Fogo, Sal, and Boa Vista, sometimes through child sex tourism. During the reporting period, officials reported child sexual abuse perpetrated by tourists on the islands of Sal, Boa Vista, Sao Vicente, Fogo, and Maio. In some cases, parents encourage their daughters to be exploited in prostitution by tourists – especially Cabo Verdean-Americans – to gain immigrant visas or remittances to support the family. Authorities increasingly identify West African women – including Nigerians and Senegalese – in forced prostitution, including on Boa Vista and Sal Islands and sometimes through sex tourism. On Sao Vicente, girls as young as 12 years old have been sexually exploited in exchange for drugs. Children in domestic service often work long hours and at times experience physical and sexual abuse – indicators of forced labor. Cabo Verdean children engaged in begging, street vending, car washing, garbage picking, and agriculture are vulnerable to trafficking. Children living in impoverished neighborhoods with little state presence are also at risk, especially for sex trafficking. In previous years, there were reports traffickers may have forced Cabo Verdean women and children to transport drugs. West African migrants may transit the archipelago en route to situations of exploitation in Europe. Some adult migrants from China and ECOWAS countries may receive low wages, work without contracts, and have irregular status, rendering them vulnerable to forced labor and sex trafficking. In a previous reporting period, there was one case of a Cabo Verdean man subjected to forced labor in Europe.


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