USDOS – US Department of State (Author)
The Government of Burkina Faso does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. These efforts included the Ministry of Women coordinating the third phase of its program to remove vulnerable children from the streets, including forced begging victims. The government repatriated domestic and foreign victims with the assistance of NGOs and international organizations and implemented a humanitarian response plan to assist vulnerable people in conflict-affected areas, including potential trafficking victims. However, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity. The government did not prosecute or convict any traffickers for the second consecutive year, identified fewer trafficking victims, and did not effectively screen vulnerable populations for trafficking indicators. Shelter and services, especially for adult victims, remained insufficient. The anti-trafficking committee did not meet or conduct any activities for the second consecutive year. Therefore Burkina Faso was downgraded to Tier 2 Watch List.
Increase efforts to vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, including those who exploit children in forced begging, and complicit officials, while respecting due process, and sentence convicted traffickers to significant prison terms, as prescribed in the 2008 anti-trafficking law. • Collaborate with international organizations and foreign donors to adopt and implement a handover protocol for children associated with non-state armed groups and establish a reintegration program for those children. • Increase the availability of shelter and services for all victims, including adults. • Train law enforcement and military officials on the standard operating procedures to identify victims among vulnerable populations, including women in commercial sex, children associated with non-state armed groups, and Cuban medical professionals, and refer them to protective services. • Train law enforcement, prosecutors, and judicial officials on investigating and prosecuting trafficking cases, including cases that do not involve movement. • Increase nationwide trafficking data collection on law enforcement and victim identification efforts. • Investigate and prosecute recruitment agencies suspected of fraudulently recruiting women for exploitation abroad. • Increase funding and resources for police and security force units charged with investigating trafficking crimes. • Increase funding and in-kind support, as feasible, for victim services, including long-term services and social reintegration. • Work with NGOs to raise awareness of trafficking, especially forced begging in Quranic schools and trafficking that does not involve movement. • Improve coordination among the anti-trafficking and child protection committees by providing funding or in-kind resources, convening regularly, and sharing data. • Draft, approve, and implement a national action plan to combat trafficking.
The government maintained insufficient law enforcement efforts. Articles 511-1 to 511-5 of the penal code criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of five to 10 years’ imprisonment and fines of 1 million to 5 million West African CFA francs (FCFA) ($1,890-$9,450) for offenses involving a victim over the age of 15, and 11 to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 2 million to 10 million FCFA ($3,780-$18,900) for those involving a victim 15 years old or younger. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.
Insecurity across the country hindered the government’s collection of law enforcement statistics. The government reported initiating one investigation in which police dismantled a child sex trafficking network during the reporting period; police arrested 15 alleged traffickers, including six Senegalese citizens. This compared to reporting zero investigations during the previous reporting period. For the second consecutive year, the government did not report any prosecutions or convictions of traffickers. However, media reported the government continued prosecution of one alleged foreign child sex tourist during the reporting period who had been detained since October 2019. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses; however, corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action during the year. In the past, authorities alleged some officials exerted pressure over police and the judiciary to drop labor trafficking cases, especially in the mining sector. In July 2018, a federal court in New York entered a default judgment against a former Burkina Faso diplomat who had been assigned to Burkina Faso’s Mission to the UN. In October 2019, the court awarded the plaintiff approximately $784,000. The plaintiff (the diplomat’s former domestic worker) had alleged, among other things, violations of the TVPA and federal and state labor laws after his employer allegedly forced him to work long hours under intolerable conditions. The judgment appears to remain unpaid and the government did not to report taking any actions to hold the diplomat accountable for the second consecutive year.
The government did not provide specialized anti-trafficking training to law enforcement officials, in part due to the pandemic, compared to its training of 250 police officers and gendarmes in the previous reporting period. The government continued to implement the 2019 law enforcement cooperation agreement with Cote d’Ivoire and the 2019 tripartite agreement on transnational child trafficking with Togo and Benin. The government cooperated with the governments of Cote d’Ivoire and Togo to identify and repatriate victims to their countries of origin.
The government decreased efforts to identify and protect victims. During the reporting period, the government did not report identifying any trafficking victims, but did report identifying 380 potential trafficking victims. This compared to identifying 114 child forced labor victims and 1,628 potential victims during the previous reporting period. According to media and government reports, police in Central Burkina Faso identified 70 children ages 11 to 16 years old en route to potential exploitation in mining sites in Mali, Equatorial Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, and Senegal. In August 2020, the Ministry of Women launched its third campaign to remove vulnerable children from the street, including talibés (Quranic students) exploited in forced begging. As a result of the campaign, the government identified and provided care to 275 vulnerable children and 35 women, including potential trafficking victims, compared to 1,578 vulnerable children identified and provided care as part of this campaign in the previous reporting period. As previously reported, the Ministry of Women did not involve law enforcement in the campaign, limiting subsequent investigations and prosecutions of traffickers. The government provided shelter and services including family reintegration, counseling, education, and medical services as needed to children identified during the campaign. Authorities and front-line responders effectively implemented standard victim identification and referral procedures in the regions where training had occurred. In addition, the government had a case management guide for law enforcement and social services personnel to facilitate the uniform referral of child victims of crime, including trafficking, to care. The government continued to coordinate with an international organization to screen for trafficking indicators among refugees and IDPs.
The government operated and staffed two shelters in Ouagadougou for victims of crime, including trafficking victims; the shelters were open 24 hours per day, provided food and medical assistance, and could accommodate long-term stays for both adults and children. The government did not report the number of trafficking victims, if any, it referred to the shelters during the reporting period. Outside of the capital, the Ministry of Women operated 34 regional centers for victims of crime that provided psycho-social, and food assistance. These centers provided short-term services, but usually not shelter, to an unknown number of Burkinabe and foreign child trafficking victims; the centers operated during weekly business hours and when they had sufficient funding, although the centers could provide short-term shelter to some adults and children when necessary. The short-term centers relied heavily on local NGOs and international organizations for the majority of support. When trafficking victims outside of Ouagadougou required shelter, authorities nearly always placed victims with host families or an NGO. Outside of Ouagadougou, there were no shelters or services specifically for adults. Long-term care for all victims remained inadequate. The government acknowledged victim services were insufficient, and service providers lacked the funding and resources to support victim protection, rehabilitation, and reintegration; the lack of victim support subsequently resulted in traffickers being able to exploit many victims again. The government did not report allocating funding for victim services for the second year in a row. However, the government allocated 233 billion FCFA ($440.5 million) to its humanitarian response plan intended to provide shelter, food, essential household items, and sanitary supplies to 2.9 million vulnerable people, including potential trafficking victims, in conflict-affected areas. The 2015 law on the prevention and repression of violence against women and girls mandated measures for victim support, including the establishment of free emergency integrated support centers to offer comprehensive services for women and girl victims of violence, including sex trafficking, and the creation of a government support fund for victims. The government had one such center in operation during the reporting period. The government did not report how many victims it referred to this center or provided support from the fund during the reporting period.
The government encouraged victims to participate in trials against their traffickers by providing protection through the Ministry of Women and a regional human rights office. The 2008 anti-trafficking law and 2018 penal code revisions contained provisions to protect victims’ identities and encourage their participation in prosecutions by allowing for closed sessions to hear victim testimony, excusing victims from appearing at hearings, and for social workers to accompany child victims. The government did not report if it utilized these provisions during the reporting period. Victims could file civil suits against their traffickers; however, victims were often not aware of this provision and it was not utilized during the reporting period. Foreign victims who faced hardship or retribution in their country of origin could apply for asylum, but there were no reports trafficking victims applied for asylum during the reporting period. The government facilitated repatriation of 42 Burkinabe trafficking victims identified in Cote d’Ivoire by providing financial assistance, travel documents, and reintegration support. The government coordinated with the Nigerian and Nigerien embassies in Ouagadougou and provided travel documentation to repatriate trafficking victims to Nigeria and more than 100 vulnerable people to Niger; the government provided shelter services and financial assistance to repatriate five child trafficking victims identified in 2019 to Togo. There were no reports the government penalized victims for crimes their traffickers compelled them to commit; however, without uniform implementation of victim identification measures, including among vulnerable populations, authorities may have detained some unidentified victims. The government detained 10 children ages 12 to 14 years old for alleged association with violent extremist groups, some of whom may have been trafficking victims. Authorities held all 10 children in a high security prison separately from adult detainees and allowed international organizations and NGOs access to provide specialized care, including legal services. In many cases, authorities held detainees, including children allegedly associated with violent extremist groups, without charge or trial for longer periods than the maximum sentence for the alleged offense; this included terrorism cases. Detainees, including children allegedly associated with violent extremist groups, faced harsh conditions, including inadequate food and water, and poor sanitation, heating, ventilation, lighting, and medical care. Since 2019, security forces and prison authorities have transferred 14 boys detained for alleged association with armed groups ages 10 to 16 years old to the Ministry of Women for care; the government did not report how many boys it transferred to the ministry during the reporting period. The government, with the support of an international organization, drafted a handover protocol on children associated with non-state armed groups; however, the government did not finalize the protocol by the end of the reporting period. During the reporting period, the government released six children formerly associated with armed groups to an international organization; the organization provided family tracing, reunification, and family reintegration support.
The government maintained insufficient efforts to prevent trafficking. The Ministry of Women, also responsible for the government’s response to the humanitarian crisis, nominally led the national anti-trafficking coordination committee established to coordinate government anti-trafficking efforts. However, the committee did not meet or conduct capacity building activities during the reporting period and continued to lack the resources to plan future initiatives or take proactive measures to combat trafficking. Due to the pandemic, the hybrid government-NGO working group for child protection, which the government previously used to coordinate and share information on child protection and child trafficking issues, did not operate during the reporting period. Sub-committees of the national anti-trafficking committee at the regional, provincial, and departmental levels coordinated local efforts and helped raise awareness of child protection issues, including trafficking; police, social workers, transit companies, NGOs, and other regional stakeholders participated in the sub-committees. However, the committees lacked resources for day-to-day operations and also did not meet during the reporting period. The government did not report allocating any funding to these sub-committees in the reporting period. Prior to its third annual operation to remove vulnerable children from the street in Bobo-Dioulasso in August 2020, the government increased engagement with stakeholders, including religious and traditional leaders and mayors, on the dangers of child forced begging. The Ministry of Women signed an agreement with 119 Quranic teachers to stop the practice of child forced begging; in exchange for the loss of income from street begging, the government donated 70 tons of food and supplies, valued at 20 million FCFA ($37,810). The government sensitized 5,395 people on children’s rights during this operation. The government also consulted 400 Quranic teachers in Dori, Bobo-Dioulasso, and Ouagadougou in January 2021 on combating child forced begging.
The government continued to implement its 2019-2023 national strategy to end the worst forms of child labor, which included child trafficking, along with the 2020-2021 operational action plans and 2020-2024 national strategy for child protection. During the reporting period, the government established a national committee responsible for coordinating the government’s efforts to combat the worst forms of child labor, including potential cases of child trafficking; the committee met twice during the reporting period. The government conducted labor inspections but could not access all regions of the country due to insecurity; the government did not report identifying any potential trafficking victims during the inspections. The government issued approximately two million identity cards in 2020 to local populations, including rural communities and IDPs. The Ministry of Women continued to operate a hotline to report cases of violence against children, including trafficking. The hotline operated every day from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. in French and five other languages. The government reported identifying 78 vulnerable children, including potential trafficking victims, as a result of calls to the hotline. The government did not report any policies to prevent the fraudulent recruitment or exploitation of Burkinabes abroad. The government did not report any efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. The government did not report providing anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel.
As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Burkina Faso, and traffickers exploit victims from Burkina Faso abroad. Traffickers fraudulently recruit Burkinabe children under the pretext of educational opportunities and instead force them to labor as farm hands, gold panners and washers in artisanal mines, street vendors, and domestic servants. In some cases, parents know their children will be exploited in domestic servitude but allow the exploitation to supplement the family income. An international organization estimates between 200,000-300,000 children work in artisanal mining sites, some of whom may be trafficking victims. Unscrupulous Quranic teachers force or coerce children to beg in Quranic schools, sometimes with parents’ knowledge. According to a 2016 survey, 9,313 children are living in the streets of Ouagadougou, of which 46 percent are talibés vulnerable to forced or coerced begging. Traffickers exploit girls in sex trafficking in Ouagadougou and in mining towns. Traffickers transport Burkinabe children—including orphan street children—to Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Senegal, and Niger for forced labor—including in artisanal mining, forced begging, and cocoa production—or sex trafficking. Traffickers recruit women for ostensibly legitimate employment in Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and—to a lesser extent—Europe, and subsequently force them into commercial sex. Traffickers also exploit Burkinabe women in domestic servitude in the Middle East. In 2018, an international organization repatriated approximately 588 Burkinabe adults from Libya, some of whom traffickers exploited in forced labor in construction and agriculture and sex trafficking in Libya, compared to 845 in 2017.
Between September 2019 and December 2020, the number of IDPs in Burkina Faso grew from nearly 300,000 people to more than one million people, an increase of more than 200 percent. Violent extremist groups continue to exploit women and children, including IDPs, in forced labor and sex trafficking. In addition, violent extremist groups allegedly coerced individuals to carry out attacks and otherwise act as accomplices. The government reported violent extremist groups recruited and used child soldiers during the reporting period. School closures, regional instability, and economic vulnerability increase children’s susceptibility to trafficking and recruitment by armed groups. Burkina Faso is a transit country for traffickers transporting children from Mali to Cote d’Ivoire and women and girls from Cote d’Ivoire to Saudi Arabia, and it is a transit country for Ghanaian migrants traveling to Libya and Italy, some of whom are trafficking victims. Traffickers exploit children from neighboring countries, including Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria, in forced labor and sex trafficking. Traffickers fraudulently recruit women from other West African countries for employment in Burkina Faso and subsequently exploit them in sex trafficking and forced labor in restaurants or domestic service. Sex traffickers exploit Nigerian girls in Burkina Faso. Cuban medical professionals working in Burkina Faso may have been forced to work by the Cuban government. In past years, authorities have identified Sri Lankan citizens transiting Burkina Faso allegedly en route to forced labor in a third country.