Trafficking in Persons Report 2016 - Country Narratives - Togo

TOGO: Tier 2

Togo is a source, transit and, to a lesser extent, destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. The western border of the Plateau region, which provides easy access to major roads leading to Accra, Ghana, and Lome, was a primary source for trafficking victims during the reporting period. Most Togolese victims are children exploited within the country. Forced child labor occurs in the agricultural sector—particularly on coffee, cocoa, and cotton farms—as well as in stone and sand quarries. Traffickers bring children from rural areas to Lome, where they are subjected to forced labor as domestic servants, roadside vendors, and porters, or exploited in prostitution. Boys are subjected to forced labor in construction, in salvage yards, mines, and as mechanics, often working with hazardous machinery. Children from Benin and Ghana are recruited and transported to Togo for forced labor. Girls from Ghana are exploited in sex trafficking in Togo. Togolese boys and girls are transported to Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Nigeria and forced to work in the agricultural sector. From September to April, many Togolese adults and children migrate in search of economic opportunities to Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali, where many are subjected to labor and sex trafficking. In Nigeria, Togolese men endure forced labor in agriculture and Togolese women are exploited in domestic servitude. Togolese women have been fraudulently recruited for employment in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, the United States, and Europe, where they are subjected to domestic servitude or forced prostitution.

The Government of Togo does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government reported increased numbers of investigations, prosecutions, and convictions of traffickers for child trafficking crimes in 2015 compared to the previous reporting period; however, it did not provide the details of these cases. It amended the penal code to criminalize trafficking of adults; however, it did not demonstrate or report any tangible efforts to address trafficking of adults. The government assisted in the repatriation of transnational child trafficking victims but did not report any efforts to identify or assist other potential trafficking victims, including adults and victims within Togo. While the government increased the number of labor inspectors, it did not have adequate resources to address forced labor cases.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR TOGO:

Develop a formal system to identify trafficking victims, including adults, and train law enforcement, immigration, and social welfare officials on victim identification; increase efforts to prosecute and punish traffickers, including of adult victims, using the amended penal code; effectively track the number of trafficking victims who receive services from the government, are referred to NGOs, or are returned to their families; develop a system among law enforcement and judicial officials to track suspected human trafficking cases and prosecution data; allocate sufficient funds to operate the Tokoin and Oasis centers; and increase efforts to raise public awareness about the dangers of human trafficking, including the trafficking of adults.

PROSECUTION

The government increased law enforcement efforts against child trafficking, but did not demonstrate tangible efforts to address trafficking of adults. During the reporting period the national assembly passed a revised penal code, which significantly increased penalties for traffickers and amended the definition of trafficking to include adult forced labor. The revised code increases the prison sentence from a minimum of 10 years to 20 years, an increase from two to five years under previous laws, and increases the maximum fine to 30 million FCFA ($51,000) from 5 million FCFA ($8,500). Unlike pending draft anti-trafficking legislation, the revised penal code does not include provisions for victim protection. Togolese law prohibits all forms of trafficking. Article 4 of the 2006 labor code prohibits forced and compulsory labor, but its prescribed penalties of three to six months’ imprisonment are not sufficiently stringent, and its definition of forced or compulsory labor includes some exceptions that constitute trafficking. The 2007 child code prohibits all forms of child trafficking and prescribes penalties of two to five years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent, but not commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The 2005 Law Related to Child Smuggling prescribes prison sentences of three months’ to 10 years’ imprisonment for abducting, transporting, or receiving children for the purposes of exploitation. Despite eight years of the TIP Report recommending the enactment of legislation criminalizing the trafficking of adults, the government did not take action during the reporting period to enact its draft legislation, which has remained pending since 2009.

The government reported 123 investigations and 59 convictions of traffickers, an increase from 103 investigations and 40 convictions in 2014. It is unclear how many of these cases actually involved trafficking charges, as the government was unable to provide details of the cases. The government did not provide any trafficking-specific training to its law enforcement officials. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses. Experts reported judges were often reluctant to convict or fine parents who subjected their children to trafficking, as they felt it would exacerbate the economic situation that drove a parent to commit the crime. The government cooperates with the governments of Benin, Ghana, and Nigeria under a quadripartite agreement on the control and monitoring of borders to prevent child trafficking, repatriate victims, and extradite traffickers. Additionally, the government cooperates with all West African states under the West African Multilateral Accord and with all west and central African states under the Multilateral Cooperation Agreement to Combat Trafficking in Persons in West and Central Africa.

PROTECTION

The government assisted in the repatriation of transnational child trafficking victims and provided protective services for other potential victims; however, it did not report data regarding its assistance and data collection remained a significant concern during the reporting period. During the reporting period, the government funded and facilitated the repatriation of 20 child trafficking victims forced to work in Gabon. The children, who originated from four villages in Togo, were initially held in Benin and Nigeria prior to being transported by boat to Gabon.

After repatriation, the government reunited the children with their families in Togo. In 2014, the government reported identifying 712 potential child trafficking victims, including 351 boys and 361 girls; the majority of these children were intercepted and rescued prior to reaching their destinations, where they likely would have faced exploitation as farm laborers or domestic servants. The government did not report the number of children referred to care facilities. The government did not identify any adult victims of trafficking.

In Lome, the Ministry of Social Affairs (MSA) continued to run a toll-free 24-hour helpline, Allo 10-11, which received an unknown number of calls regarding child trafficking and other forms of child abuse. The National Committee for the Reception and Social Reinsertion of Trafficked Children, Togo’s national anti-trafficking committee comprised of government officials and NGOs, continued to operate jointly with the police an ad hoc referral system to respond to hotline tips. The MSA continued to operate two shelters; the Tokoin Community Center served as an intermediary shelter for child victims before transfer to care facilities managed by NGOs, while the Oasis Center provided shelter, legal, medical, and social services to child victims up to age 14. The government was unable to provide the total budget for victim assistance and protection. The government did not offer temporary or permanent residency status to foreign victims facing hardship or retribution upon return to their country of origin. The government did not have a formal process to encourage and support victims’ participation in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers, and it is unclear whether any victims did so during the reporting period. There were no reports of child victims being penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking.

PREVENTION

The government continued minimal efforts to prevent child trafficking during the year and showed no discernible efforts to prevent adult trafficking. The government employed 109 labor inspectors across all five regions during the reporting period, an increase of 23 inspectors from the previous year. Despite the increase, there were still far too few inspectors to effectively investigate child labor cases. An NGO reported inspectors often did not address even obvious cases of child labor in large, open-air markets in urban centers. The government has not instituted policies or laws regulating foreign labor recruiters to hold them civilly and criminally liable for fraudulent recruiting. The government reduced the demand for forced labor through the continuation of a program partnering with 30 traditional religious leaders to eliminate the practice of religious “apprenticeships”—a practice in which children are entrusted to religious leaders who exploit them in forced domestic work, or sexual slavery when parents are unable to pay school fees. The government has not updated its national action plan since 2008. The government did not take any discernible measures to decrease the demand for commercial sex acts. The government provided anti-trafficking training to Togolese troops prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel.