Trafficking in Persons Report 2012 - Gambia

THE GAMBIA (Tier 2 Watch List)

The Gambia is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Within The Gambia, women and girls and, to a lesser extent, boys are subjected to sex trafficking and domestic servitude. Women, girls, and boys from West African countries − mainly Senegal, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and Benin – are recruited for commercial sexual exploitation in The Gambia, in particular to meet the demands of European tourists seeking sex with children. Observers believe organized networks use travel agencies to promote child sex tourism. Many Gambian boys attend Koranic schools led by marabouts (religious teachers). Corrupt or unscrupulous marabouts sometimes force such boys into street vending.

Gambian trafficking victims have been identified in neighboring West African countries, as well as in the United Kingdom.

The Government of The Gambia 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 evidence of increasing efforts to address human trafficking over the previous year; therefore, The Gambia is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a second consecutive year. Although the government established a national agency against trafficking in persons and convicted one trafficker, the sentence of a modest administrative fine did not adequately convey the serious nature of the crime. The government claimed to monitor boys in street vending and unaccompanied girls in resorts known to be destinations of sex tourists, but it did not identify any as victims of trafficking during the reporting period.

Recommendations for The Gambia: Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses and ensure adequate sentencing for convicted trafficking offenders; train law enforcement personnel to identify trafficking victims proactively among vulnerable populations, such as boys in street vending, unattended children in tourist resorts known to be sex tourism destinations, and women in prostitution, and refer them to protective services; begin to take measures to decrease the demand for commercial sex acts, specifically those committed by sex tourists; engage with anti-trafficking counterparts in the region to enable the safe repatriation of victims to and from The Gambia; and increase efforts to raise public awareness about the dangers of trafficking.


The Government of The Gambia sustained modest anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. Its 2007 Trafficking in Persons Act prohibits all forms of trafficking, and an October 2010 amendment increased the prescribed penalties to 50 years’ to life imprisonment for all forms of trafficking. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The Gambia’s 2005 Children’s Act also prohibits child trafficking – though it does not include forced labor in its definition of trafficking – prescribing a penalty of life imprisonment. The 2003 Tourism Offenses Act explicitly prohibits child sex trafficking, prescribing a penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment.

The government investigated one case of suspected sex trafficking during the year. A Nigerian trafficker was arrested and prosecuted on charges of trafficking two Nigerian women to The Gambia for forced prostitution; he was convicted in September 2011 and was fined only the equivalent of $333 before being deported to Nigeria. Despite reports of the convicted trafficker having three accomplices in Nigeria, the government neither engaged the appropriate Nigerian anti-trafficking authorities for assistance in the case nor even informed the Nigerian government of the offenders’ deportation to Nigeria. The March 2011 case against a marabout transporting boys to Senegal for forced begging was dropped when the marabout promised to stop the practice of sending his students to beg in Senegal. No law enforcement officials were investigated, prosecuted, or convicted for involvement in human trafficking, and the government did not take any action to investigate NGO-reported allegations that an official at The Gambian Embassy in Mauritania allegedly was complicit in a case of cross-border child trafficking between Mauritania and Sierra Leone.


The Gambian government undertook inadequate efforts to protect trafficking victims during the year, as it identified no Gambian trafficking victims and only two foreign victims of sex trafficking. Although it claimed to monitor the activities of boys in Koranic schools, it did not rescue or provide services to any victims of forced street vending or begging. The Ministry of Social Welfare operated a 24-hour multi-purpose hotline and allocated the equivalent of $11,500 toward running a shelter and drop-in center, although the government did not report the number of trafficking victims it may have cared for in these shelters. The Department of Social Welfare continued to maintain an electronic child protection database, which includes information on trafficking cases, although no cases were identified in 2011. The Trafficking in Persons Act allows foreign victims to obtain temporary residence visas for the duration of legal proceedings, though the government offers no other legal alternatives to the removal of foreign trafficking victims to countries where they may face retribution or hardship. The government did not provide the Nigerian victims in the aforementioned case with shelter support during their stay in The Gambia. Instead authorities deported them to Nigeria after they provided testimony. There were no reports of victims being penalized for unlawful acts committed as a result of being trafficked; however, the lack of a formal identification system likely resulted in some victims remaining unidentified in the law enforcement system.


The government made limited efforts to prevent trafficking during the year. In October 2011, The Gambian tourism board officially launched its training manual on addressing child sex tourism. The government also organized a one-day orientation that addressed curbing commercial sex, particularly child sex tourism, for 50 members of the tourism security unit in preparation for the start of the tourism high season. Authorities report removing unattended children from resort areas, in accordance with a policy to combat child sex tourism, but this effort did not lead to the referral of any child trafficking victims to protective services or the apprehension of any suspected traffickers. In December 2011, the Ministry of Justice launched the National Agency Against Trafficking in Persons with four staff members and a budget the equivalent of $8,474. The agency began work to develop a trafficking database that will eventually collect trafficking information from all government agencies. It was unclear whether the government provided anti-trafficking training to Gambian troops before their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.

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