Trafficking in Persons Report 2011

CAMEROON (Tier 2 Watch List)

Cameroon is a country of origin, transit, and destination for children subjected to forced labor, and a country of origin for women subjected to forced labor. Trafficking operations usually target two or three children, as when rural parents hand over their children to a middleman promising education or a better life in the city. Cameroonian children from the country’s 10 regions involuntarily work in domestic servitude, street vending, mining, and agriculture, including on tea or cocoa plantations. Cameroonian children are also exploited in prostitution within the country. Traffickers are increasingly kidnapping their victims, as heightened public awareness is diminishing the number of children given to middlemen by their parents. Nigerian and Beninese children attempting to transit Cameroon en route to Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, or adjacent countries often fall victim to traffickers, including Nigerian syndicates, who force them to remain in the country to work. Children from the Central African Republic (CAR) may be trafficked to Cameroon, and there have been recent reports of trafficked Cameroonian children in the CAR and Mali. Cameroonian women are lured to Europe by fraudulent internet marriage proposals or offers of domestic work, and subsequently become victims of forced labor or forced prostitution in Switzerland and France, with smaller numbers of cases in Russia. During the year, Cameroonian trafficking victims were reported in the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Cyprus, Norway, and Senegal. This migration reportedly is facilitated by corrupt officials who accept bribes for the issuance of travel documents. Reports indicate the existence of hereditary slavery in northern chiefdoms. There were also allegations that after parents gave their children to Koranic teachers in Maroua and elsewhere in the Far North, some were kept in leg chains and subjected to forced labor.

The Government of Cameroon does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and has been placed on Tier 2 Watch List for the fourth consecutive year. Cameroon was not placed on Tier 3 per Section 107 of the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, however, as the government has a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is devoting sufficient resources to implement that plan. While the government modestly increased its efforts to prevent trafficking, including the creation of an inter-ministerial committee and a national action plan, it failed to convict or punish trafficking offenders, including complicit officials, under its child trafficking law, did not take steps to enact a 2006 draft law prohibiting the trafficking of adults, and did not exhibit significant efforts to protect victims of trafficking.

Recommendations for Cameroon: Increase efforts to prosecute and convict trafficking offenders, including complicit officials; continue to educate police, judges, lawyers, and social workers about the law against child trafficking; finalize and enact the draft law criminalizing the trafficking of adults; develop formal procedures to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable groups and refer them to care centers; and investigate reports of hereditary servitude in the northern regions.


The Government of Cameroon demonstrated weak anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts over the last year, failing to enact much-needed anti-trafficking legislation and failing to use existing laws to prosecute and punish trafficking offenders. Existing laws do not prohibit all forms of trafficking in persons, as the 2006 draft law against the trafficking of adults has yet to be passed and enacted; however, in 2010, the Ministry of Justice completed draft revisions to the penal code, including expansion of human trafficking provisions, which is yet to be tabled before the National Assembly. The 2005 law, “Relating to the Fight Against Child Trafficking and Slavery,” prescribes a penalty of 20 years’ imprisonment for these offenses – a punishment that is sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape. Article 292 of the penal code prohibits forced labor, prescribing sufficiently stringent penalties of between one to five years’ imprisonment or fines of $20 to $1000. Article 293 of the penal code prohibits slavery and engaging in trafficking in human beings, and an amendment to this article prohibits procuring a person for trafficking for prostitution, prescribing sufficiently stringent penalties of 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment for the enslavement of another. These provisions could be used to address crimes involving the trafficking of adults. The government did not provide data on its current anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Police in Kumba arrested two offenders for the alleged trafficking of nine children to Bamenda for an unknown purpose; however, the case did not go to court. The government did not investigate traditional leaders in the northern regions suspected of keeping hereditary servants in conditions of involuntary servitude during the reporting period; however, it was reported during the year that the government sentenced a traditional ruler to 20 years’ imprisonment for false arrest in August 2009, in an alleged trafficking case.

There were reports of some officials’ involvement in trafficking, though there were no prosecutions or convictions for such trafficking complicity. The government continued to take no action on a 2009 complaint against a police commissioner for complicity in child trafficking. Additionally, there were reports that law enforcement officials use their positions to solicit bribes from trafficking offenders. The National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms, working with international and local NGOs, trained an unknown number of law enforcement officers and magistrates. During the year, the Office of the Prime Minister requested international assistance for training of law enforcement and raising awareness of trafficking. The government did not disseminate the 2005 child trafficking law, nor did it provide training to law enforcement officials on this law.


The Cameroonian government showed minimal efforts to ensure that victims of trafficking received access to necessary assistance during the year. The government provided some direct assistance to child victims, including temporary residency status, shelter, and medical care. Children rescued from trafficking situations were either cared for in centers sponsored by the Ministry of Social Affairs or referred in an ad hoc, cumbersome fashion to local NGO centers while the ministry conducted family tracing. Government personnel did not demonstrate systematic and proactive efforts to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable groups, such as street children, women in prostitution, and illegal migrants, or refer these victims to necessary care. The government did not provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution. The government’s renovation of a number of the few care centers it maintains for abandoned children, street children, and child trafficking victims – started in late 2009 – was completed during the reporting period, though the government did not report the number of trafficking victims cared for in these centers. In 2010, the Ministry of Social Affairs, in partnership with UNICEF, finalized a guide instructing families how to serve as foster parents by providing shelter, food, health care, and education to vulnerable children; during the reporting period, an international NGO used the program to place 14 child trafficking victims with foster families. Victims were provided the opportunity to file civil suits against trafficking offenders, though in the case of child victims, adult family members needed to initiate proceedings. Although this opportunity serves as a vehicle for restitution, there are allegations that victims were unable to access these funds. Between July 2009 and September 2010, an NGO reported identification of 204 trafficking victims, mostly in the North West Region. During the reporting period, the government identified nine potential child trafficking victims, who were returned to their families by the Ministry of Social Affairs.


The Cameroonian government demonstrated modest progress in prevention efforts over the last year. In November 2010, the prime minister signed an executive order creating an Inter-Ministerial Committee, chaired by the secretary general of the Prime Minister’s Office and charged with coordinating anti-trafficking efforts across the government. In December 2010, the government released “Cameroon’s Strategy to Implement its Trafficking in Persons Action Plan.” The plan commits the government to produce an annual progress report on its efforts to combat trafficking and, within one year, to train law enforcement to identify and investigate individuals engaged in hereditary slavery. Cameroon’s 2011 budget, approved in December 2010, includes $45,000 allocated to the Office of the Prime Minister for the Inter-Ministerial Committee’s activities in the prevention of trafficking in persons. The Inter-Ministerial Committee is charged with implementation of the action plan. In February 2011, the Ministers of Social Affairs and Women’s Empowerment, in collaboration with UNICEF, launched a nationwide sensitization campaign entitled “Campaign Against Sexual Exploitation and Traffic of Children” to build awareness and train on the identification of traffickers by visiting schools and distributing leaflets and posters. The government collaborated with an NGO to train prosecutors, magistrates, and law enforcement personnel in March 2011. In September and October 2010, the Ministry of Justice, in partnership with UNICEF, organized four separate regional seminars for stakeholders. The government reported no measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts within the country. The government provided members of the Cameroonian armed forces with training on human trafficking prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions as part of an overall briefing on international humanitarian law.

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