2021 Trafficking in Persons Report: Cote d'Ivoire


The Government of Cote d’Ivoire does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Cote d’Ivoire remained on Tier 2. These efforts included establishing new specialized police units to investigate child labor and child trafficking across the country, training more law enforcement and judicial officials on the anti-trafficking law, referring identified victims to care, and increasing financial and in-kind support to NGOs providing services to trafficking victims. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government continued to use pimping and illegal mining statutes to prosecute trafficking cases, which carried lesser penalties than the anti-trafficking law. The government identified fewer trafficking victims, and shelter services for adult victims remained inadequate. The government did not allocate dedicated resources to the anti-trafficking committee.


Using the 2016 anti-trafficking law, increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, following due process, including complicit officials, and apply significant prison terms as prescribed by law to those convicted. • Train law enforcement and judicial officials on how to identify, investigate, and prosecute trafficking cases under the 2016 anti-trafficking law, including the difference between pimping and sex trafficking. • Increase funding and in-kind resources, as feasible, for the police anti-trafficking units to investigate trafficking cases nationwide and delineate responsibilities between the units. • Standardize existing procedures used to identify potential trafficking victims to include adults and victims among vulnerable populations, and train law enforcement, labor inspectors, and other officials on the revised procedures. • Establish and train officials on a standardized victim referral mechanism for use across ministries to ensure all trafficking victims receive services. • Adopt and implement a new anti-trafficking national action plan; clearly delineate responsibilities for activities under the plan and fund its implementation. • Increase funding to expand shelter and services for trafficking victims, including adults. • Direct labor inspectors to increase inspections in the informal sector to help detect forced labor conditions. • Actively monitor agencies and intermediaries that recruit Ivoirians for work abroad and investigate allegations of fraudulent recruitment. • Improve nationwide data collection on anti-trafficking law enforcement and victim identification efforts.


The government decreased law enforcement efforts. Law No. 2016-111 on the Fight Against Trafficking in Persons criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of five to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 5 million to 10 million West African CFA francs (FCFA) ($9,450-$18,900) for adult trafficking, and 20 to 30 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 10 million to 50 million FCFA ($18,900-$94,520) for child trafficking. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The 2010 Child Trafficking and Child Labor Law remained the primary law used to prosecute child trafficking, and it criminalized child sex trafficking and labor trafficking with 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 5 million to 20 million FCFA ($9,450-$37,810). The government used penal code provisions on illegal mining and pimping to prosecute trafficking cases during the reporting period. The penal code prescribed penalties of one to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 1 million to 10 million FCFA ($1,890-$18,900) for pimping and penalties of two to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 50 million to 100 million FCFA ($94,520-$189,040) for illegal mining. These penalties were significantly lower than those prescribed under the trafficking law.

The government diverted law enforcement from anti-trafficking activities to enforce pandemic mitigation measures and travel restrictions, and courts operated at a reduced capacity. Despite the pandemic’s impact, the government investigated at least 18 cases, prosecuted 25 alleged traffickers, and convicted 12 traffickers under trafficking laws and penal code provisions on illegal mining and pimping during the reporting period. This compared to 191 investigations, prosecution of 35 alleged traffickers, and conviction of 12 traffickers in the previous reporting period. Judges sentenced 10 defendants to prison sentences ranging from six months to 10 years with fines ranging from 100,000 FCFA ($189) to 10 million FCFA ($18,900). Two convicted traffickers received no prison sentence or a fully suspended sentence. Some judges and prosecutors remained unaware of the 2016 law and continued to use the 2010 law and illegal mining and pimping statutes to prosecute trafficking cases, which carried lesser penalties. The court convicted six out of 12 traffickers using pimping statutes during the reporting period. The 2016 anti-trafficking law and related penal code provisions also criminalized the knowing solicitation and patronization of a sex trafficking victim; the government reported three prosecutions and three convictions of such cases during the reporting period, compared to prosecuting 15 such cases and obtaining convictions in 11 cases during the previous reporting period. The government did not report continuing any prosecutions from the previous reporting period. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses; however, official corruption and complicity in trafficking crimes remained concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action during the year. Observers alleged police on the borders with Mali and Burkina Faso facilitated child trafficking during the reporting period, taking bribes at checkpoints along bus routes from non-Ivoirian passengers, including potential child forced labor victims en route to exploitation on cocoa plantations. As detailed in a previous reporting period, five gendarmes and two military firefighters allegedly abducted a trafficking victim from an NGO shelter in 2018; a military tribunal sentenced four of the gendarmes and military firefighters to 50 days in military jail in August 2019 as an administrative sanction for unbecoming conduct. A subsequent prosecutions of four of the gendarmes and one of the military firefighters for kidnapping of a minor, forced confinement, and attempted rape was pending before a military judge at the end of the reporting period.

Limited funding and resources for law enforcement created serious gaps in the government’s ability to address human trafficking. The Sub-Directorate in the Fight against Trafficking and Child Labor (SDLTEDJ, the Sub-Directorate, or anti-trafficking unit) bore primary responsibility for enforcing anti-trafficking laws and investigating cases throughout the country, although it only had staff in Abidjan. In June 2020, the government established six special police units under the Sub-Directorate across the country to investigate child labor and child trafficking cases; each unit had 10-20 officers with two motorcycles, a four-wheel drive vehicle, computers, and office materials. The units received specialized training in Abidjan before deploying to six locations where child trafficking and child labor were prevalent. The new units successfully conducted several anti-trafficking operations, including one in February 2021 that identified 19 potential child trafficking victims. The gendarmes under the Ministry of Defense were responsible for investigations in rural areas where the Sub-Directorate was not present. Funding levels for law enforcement activities remained severely inadequate. Resource limitations also constrained the Brigade Mondaine—the unit responsible for investigating prostitution and sex trafficking—to Abidjan and a few regional precincts. The Transnational Organized Crime Unit (UCT) had national jurisdiction over transnational organized crime, including a specialized human trafficking department. The Sub-Directorate was responsible for child trafficking, UCT for transnational trafficking, and Brigade Mondaine for sex trafficking; however, the units lacked coordination, and no unit had a clear responsibility for internal adult labor trafficking. Authorities outside Abidjan lacked training to identify and investigate trafficking.

The government conducted trainings for 176 law enforcement and judicial officials, an increase from 129 officials trained during the previous reporting period. In coordination with a foreign donor and international organization, the government organized three training sessions for 108 judges, magistrates, prosecutors, police, and ministry officials on the 2016 anti-trafficking law, victim identification and protection, investigative techniques, and cross-agency collaboration. The government organized an additional three trainings for 68 officials from the UCT, Sub-Directorate, Brigade Mondaine, and Airport Anti-Trafficking Cell (CAAT) in coordination with a foreign donor; topics included national and international anti-trafficking legal frameworks, distinctions between human trafficking and migrant smuggling, and investigative and prosecutorial procedures. The government continued to meet virtually with Tunisian authorities to exchange information on victim support and law enforcement networks.


The government decreased efforts to identify victims but maintained protection efforts. During the reporting period, the government identified 302 trafficking victims, compared with at least 738 trafficking victims identified among 1,157 potential victims during the previous reporting period. Of these, the government identified 19 children and 283 adults; this included 27 Ivoirian and 275 foreign trafficking victims from Burkina Faso, Gabon, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, and Togo. Media reported police identified 19 Burkinabe children en route to potential exploitation on cocoa plantations or in artisanal mines and three Burkinabe child forced labor victims.

The government began developing a national referral mechanism with the assistance of an international organization and foreign donor, which remained pending at the end of the reporting period. While the government did not have formal mechanisms to proactively identify trafficking victims and refer them to care, the UCT, Brigade Mondaine, and Sub-Directorate had operational procedures to refer victims to care. Government ministries lacked coordination, which in some cases hindered the provision of services. During the reporting period, the government referred adult victims to NGO-operated shelters and child victims to government and NGO-operated shelters. The government provided food, medical care, psycho-social support, and transportation to some victims, including 138 children exploited in forced labor and 15 adults exploited in sex trafficking identified in February 2020. Despite the lack of a formal referral mechanism, in practice, officials referred trafficking victims to one of 90 government-run social centers for victims of abuse to receive psychological care and then to NGOs for shelter and further services. The government also placed children with foster families and used orphanages or its 36 special education centers to temporarily shelter women and child trafficking victims when necessary. Due to the pandemic, the government-run shelter for child victims of exploitation in Soubre operated at reduced capacity and the government referred all child trafficking victims identified during the reporting period to NGOs for long-term care. There was no government-run shelter that could accommodate adult victims. The Ministry of Family Women and Children reported it allocated 100 million FCFA ($189,040) in financial assistance and 50 million FCFA ($94,520) in in-kind support, including clothing, food, and hygiene kits, to NGOs serving child trafficking victims during the reporting period. Despite this, NGOs reported government support for victim protection and services remained inadequate, and in many cases, NGOs funded and provided the majority of victim care. NGOs also reported the government closed food and medical assistance centers for portions of the reporting period due to the pandemic. The lack of services, especially for adults, and lack of reintegration assistance rendered many victims vulnerable to re-victimization. Foreign victims reportedly had the same access to care as domestic victims. However, the government did not report providing temporary or permanent residency to foreign victims who faced hardship or retribution in their countries of origin. In some cases, the government depended on foreign victims’ home embassies to provide shelter and care prior to repatriation; the Nigerian and Moroccan embassies assisted their citizens identified as trafficking victims during the reporting period. The government collaborated with international organizations to facilitate the repatriation of 13 Ivoirian child trafficking victims from Ghana and 17 victims from other countries not specified by the government. The government also assisted in repatriating 16 Nigerian women and two Togolese women during the reporting period.

Ivoirian law required the government to provide protection and assistance to victims who participated in investigations or trials against their traffickers; the government did not report whether any victims received this assistance during the reporting period. In December 2018, the government approved a law protecting victim and witness testimony by establishing a bureau to coordinate victim-witness protection issues and develop a case management system for individuals; the government approved the implementing decree to establish the bureau in December 2020. Trafficking victims could file civil suits against their traffickers, but many victims were not aware of this option. A sex trafficking victim reportedly filed a civil suit against her trafficker and a court awarded her 300,000 FCFA ($567) in damages. There were no reports the government detained, fined, or jailed victims for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit; however, due to the lack of formal identification procedures for adult trafficking victims and victims among vulnerable populations, some victims may have remained unidentified within the law enforcement system. International organizations reported border agents sometimes denied entry to foreign nationals, including potential victims, without screening for human trafficking. Law enforcement officials reportedly only screened individuals in commercial sex for trafficking when detaining or arresting them. The government did not partner with NGOs to screen for victims.


The government modestly increased efforts to prevent trafficking. The interagency Anti-Trafficking Committee (CNLTP) led anti-trafficking prevention efforts, including implementation of the 2016-2020 anti-trafficking national action plan, with the assistance of foreign donors. The government did not allocate a budget to implement the national action plan for the second consecutive year. The government had a 2019-2021 action plan to combat child labor and trafficking with a three-year budget of over 76 billion FCFA ($143.7 million). The Oversight Committee to Combat Child Trafficking and the Worst Forms of Child Labor (CNS) and the Inter-Ministerial Committee in the Fight Against Child Trafficking, Child Exploitation, and Child Labor (CIM) continued to coordinate efforts to combat child labor and child trafficking. CNS oversaw CIM and conducted monitoring and evaluation activities. Observers reported coordination between the three bodies improved during the reporting period, although increased collaboration and dedicated resources were still needed for the CNLTP to be fully effective. Despite postponing several trainings and events due to the pandemic, the government funded and carried out five anti-trafficking awareness events in collaboration with international organizations, an increase compared to two events during the previous reporting period. This included an event in July 2020 with 250 participants from youth and women’s associations, religious leaders, and traditional leaders on human trafficking indicators and vulnerability of economic migrants. The labor code regulated labor recruitment and labor migration in the formal sector but did not extend to the informal sector, including domestic work, which increased some migrant workers’ vulnerability to trafficking. In 2020, labor inspectors conducted limited inspections of the informal sector—where most children worked—but did not identify child forced labor cases through these inspections. The government continued to operate a hotline for child protection and human rights, which received 43,456 calls in 2020. The Sub-Directorate is responsible for receiving and processing all complaints related to minors; the government did not report identifying any child trafficking victims or initiating trafficking investigations from the hotline.

In September 2020, the government established two inter-ministerial commissions to adjudicate claims for statelessness, intending to process status for approximately 16,000 people living in the country without identity documents and therefore vulnerable to trafficking. However, the commissions had not begun adjudicating claims by the end of the reporting period. The government did not demonstrate efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel.


As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Cote d’Ivoire, and traffickers exploit victims from Cote d’Ivoire abroad. The majority of victims identified are children; due to a stronger emphasis on combating internal child trafficking, the prevalence of adult trafficking may be underreported. Traffickers exploit Ivoirian women and girls in forced labor in domestic service and restaurants and in sex trafficking. Traffickers also exploit Ivoirian boys in forced labor in the agricultural and service industries, especially cocoa production. West African boys, especially Burkinabe, may be forced into labor in agriculture (on cocoa, coffee, pineapple, cashew, and rubber plantations, and in animal herding) and in mining, carpentry, construction, and begging in Cote d’Ivoire. Traffickers often operate in well-established networks consisting of both Ivoirians and foreigners and, in cases of transnational trafficking, use social media, making networks difficult for law enforcement to detect. In 2018, authorities estimated there were more than 2,000 Ivoirian, Burkinabe, Malian, Nigerien, and Senegalese talibés (students in Quranic schools) in northern and central Cote d’Ivoire and that corrupt teachers force many of them to beg; authorities have not provided an updated statistic since 2018. NGOs and officials report drug traffickers use children—some of whom may be forced—to sell and traffic drugs in restaurants and nightclubs. Some Beninese and Togolese workers migrate to Cote d’Ivoire for construction and carpentry work and bring children, whom they exploit in domestic servitude. Traffickers—commonly distant relatives—bring girls from rural Cote d’Ivoire and other West African countries to Abidjan ostensibly to go to school or receive professional training but subject them to domestic servitude. Ghanaian, Moroccan, and Nigerian traffickers recruit women and girls from Ghana, Morocco, and Nigeria for waitressing jobs but subject them to sex trafficking in restaurants or massage parlors; some victims believe they are transiting Cote d’Ivoire en route to Europe. Nigerian traffickers increasingly exploit Nigerian women and girls in sex trafficking in Cote d’Ivoire’s northern and western mining regions, including near gold mines in Tengrela. Nigerian traffickers bring Nigerian children to northern Cote d’Ivoire for domestic servitude. Nigerian victims transit Cote d’Ivoire en route to exploitation in sex trafficking in Asia, the United Arab Emirates, and North Africa. Chinese traffickers have in the past forced Chinese women into commercial sex in Cote d’Ivoire.

Some Ivoirian community and religious leaders, possibly working in concert with others abroad, reportedly recruit Ivoirian women and girls for work in the Middle East and Europe. While much of this is for legitimate employment, some women and girls are subjected to forced labor in Europe, North Africa, and Gulf countries, primarily Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia. Traffickers exploit men and boys in forced labor on farms in Tunisia, often promising the men well-paying jobs and the boys the opportunity to play soccer. Officials identified an uptick in Ivoirian migrants in Libya and Tunisia who were vulnerable to trafficking. An international organization reported an increase in Ivorian migrant women and unaccompanied children arriving in Italy; an NGO reported traffickers sexually exploited many of the women in Libya prior to their arrival in Italy. Authorities have also noted an increase in male trafficking victims among migrants to Europe. Migrants commonly depart from Daloa and proceed via airplane to Tunisia, or overland via Mali and Algeria to Libya, or, to a lesser extent, via Niger to Libya. In Tunisia—specifically Sfax and Grand Tunis—intermediaries confiscate migrants’ identity documents until they can pay for the next leg of their journey, creating vulnerabilities to trafficking. During the previous reporting period, the Tunisian government, NGOs, and international organizations identified an estimated 1,470 Ivoirian potential trafficking victims in Tunisia, approximately 80 percent of the total trafficking victims identified in Tunisia. International organizations and Ivoirian law enforcement agencies reported Ivoirian migrant smuggling networks based in Tunisia increasingly became involved in trafficking as European governments blocked migration inflows and that these networks also coerced Ivoirians to engage in criminal acts, including drug smuggling. Ivoirian irregular migrants in Algeria are vulnerable to trafficking due to their irregular status. In 2018, French authorities disbanded an Ivoirian trafficking network linked to Daloa that provided Ivoirian children with fake documents and facilitated their travel to France through Libya and Italy. Kuwaiti employers increasingly recruit domestic workers from Cote d’Ivoire who may be vulnerable to domestic servitude in Kuwait. Authorities previously identified Ivoirian trafficking victims in Cyprus, France, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Morocco, and the United Kingdom.