Trafficking in Persons Report 2012 - Guinea Bissau

GUINEA-BISSAU (Tier 2 Watch List)

Guinea-Bissau is a country of origin and destination for children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. The scope of the problem of trafficking in adult women or men for forced labor or forced prostitution is unknown. Unscrupulous marabouts (religious teachers), or their intermediaries, recruit boys under the pretense of offering them a Koranic education, but subsequently transport them to Senegal or, to a lesser extent, Mali or Guinea, where they are forced to beg for money. Young boys are increasingly sent to cities within Guinea-Bissau for the same purpose. Men from the regions of Bafata and Gabu – often former students of the marabouts, known as talibes – who are generally well-known within the communities in which they operate are the principal trafficking offenders. NGOs observed an alarming increase in overall trafficking during the past year. Boys reportedly were transported to southern Senegal for forced manual and agricultural labor, girls were forced into domestic service in Bissau, the capital, and both boys and girls were forced to work as street vendors in Bissau-Guinean and Senegalese cities. Bissau-Guinean girls are subjected to domestic servitude in Guinea and Senegal, while a smaller number are subjected to child prostitution the same countries, including for exploitation by international sex tourists.

The Government of Guinea-Bissau does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government acknowledged that human trafficking is a problem in the country and enacted a comprehensive anti-trafficking law in June 2011, followed by a national plan of action for implementing the law. It also facilitated the repatriation of 120 trafficking victims from Senegal and provided a small amount of funding to NGO shelters that provided victim care. It did not, however, pursue criminal action against trafficking offenders during the year. Anti-trafficking awareness efforts applied the misleading phrase “children in movement” in place of “trafficking” in an attempt to avoid backlash from religious communities. Police claimed to monitor the activities of known trafficking perpetrators, but failed to initiate law enforcement actions against them.

Recommendations for Guinea-Bissau: Focusing first on Pirada and Sao Domingos, transit towns on the border with Senegal, train law enforcement officials and magistrates to use the new anti-trafficking law to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses; ensure that efforts to hold parents criminally liable for sending their children with abusive marabouts are accompanied by efforts to prosecute and convict the unscrupulous marabouts who use talibes for forced begging; ensure that budget allocations are designated to keep prisons fully operational with furnishings and security staff to ensure that trafficking offenders serve prison sentences; undertake increased efforts to coordinate with NGOs to provide services to trafficking victims; increase partnership and coordination between the National Institute of Women and Children (INMC) and local NGOs to advance anti-trafficking efforts; and in collaboration with NGOs, implement a public awareness campaign warning families about the dangers of trafficking.


Although the Government of Guinea-Bissau enacted comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation during the reporting period, it did not prosecute or punish any trafficking offenders. In June 2011, the Parliament passed Public Law 12/2011, which is Guinea-Bissau’s first comprehensive law against human trafficking. The law prescribes penalties of three to 15 years’ imprisonment and the confiscation of any proceeds from the crime. The 2009 Child Code prohibits all forms of child trafficking and prescribes penalties of three to 10 years’ imprisonment and the confiscation of any proceeds from the crime. The penalties prescribed by these statutes are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. However, neither these laws nor other existing laws were used to prosecute trafficking cases during the reporting period.

An unknown number of suspected traffickers were arrested and possibly detained, but the government reported no investigations or prosecutions of trafficking offenses. During the reporting period, border police detained and questioned five marabouts on suspicion of child trafficking, although they were eventually released and no charges were filed against them. Observers noted that most parents of trafficked children remained unwilling to press charges against suspected traffickers. Guinea-Bissau’s judicial system lacks sufficient human and physical capital to function properly and corruption remained pervasive. In contrast to previous years, however, some prisons were staffed and functioning. The government did not provide any specialized training to law enforcement officials on investigating or prosecuting trafficking crimes. During the reporting period, members of an Italian police force provided on-site training to border guards in Pirada, a major trafficking route. There were no investigations into official government complicity, but observers believe police and border guards accepted bribes to release trafficking offenders from detention centers, and politicians intervened to facilitate the release of influential religious leaders accused of trafficking to garner political support.


The Government of Guinea-Bissau demonstrated overall inadequate efforts to identify and protect victims during the year, though it provided modest financial assistance to NGO-run shelters that cared for trafficking victims. NGOs reported that the government did not make systematic efforts to identify victims proactively and refer them to NGOs and international organizations. Although the INMC routinely called NGOs to alert them to the arrival of repatriated trafficking victims, the government offered no additional assistance. During the last year, the central government contributed the equivalent of $16,000 to an NGO that operated two multi-purpose shelters, and two local governments paid the salaries of security guards for two care facilities for previously-exploited talibes in their jurisdictions. The Bissau-Guinean Embassy in Dakar organized and funded the repatriation of 120 Bissau-Guinean victims identified in Senegal. There are reports that some children who were able to escape their traffickers walked back to Guinea-Bissau from Senegal on their own; the government did not provide these children with services upon their return, and there were reports that many of them ended up living on the street. Child victims were not encouraged to assist in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking offenses; the government reported encouraging adult family members and neighbors to participate in legal proceedings against the suspected traffickers of their children, although none occurred. There is no evidence that the government detained, fined, or jailed trafficking victims for unlawful acts committed as a result of being trafficked.


The government undertook minimal anti-trafficking prevention efforts during the reporting period. An inter-ministerial steering committee, chaired by INMC, met once during the reporting period and adopted a national action plan for 2011-2013, which is primarily aimed at providing guidance for implementing the new anti-trafficking law. This plan also obligates the government to contribute to anti-trafficking efforts from its general funds each year. NGOs expressed concern over the lack of transparency and partnership between the INMC and the NGO community. The government participated in NGO-led anti-trafficking awareness campaigns in the form of local workshops, radio and television announcements, informational flyers, and door-to-door campaigns. International donors provided the funding for these outreach events. The government took no discernible measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor during the year.

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