[ Country-by-Country Reports ]

BENIN (TIER 2)   [Extracted from U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2009]

Benin is a source, transit, and, to a lesser extent, a destination country for children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. A UNICEF study found that in 2006 more than 40,000 children were trafficked to, from, or through Benin. Ninety-three percent of victims were Beninese and 92 percent were trafficked within the country. Forty-three percent of children trafficked were subjected to domestic servitude. Of those trafficked internally, 86 percent were underage girls. A 2006 NGO study revealed that more than half of internally trafficked children are taken to Cotonou. Within the country, girls are trafficked primarily for domestic servitude and sexual exploitation, while boys are subjected to forced agricultural and construction work, street hawking, and handicraft activities. There is anecdotal evidence that child sex tourism may be developing in northern Benin. Children are trafficked from Benin to other African countries for the aforementioned purposes as well as for forced labor in mines and stone quarries. A 2005 ILO study found that the majority of victims trafficked transnationally from Benin are taken to Nigeria and Gabon, though some are also trafficked to Cameroon, Togo, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Niger, Republic of Congo, Guinea-Bissau, the Central African Republic, and possibly to Equatorial Guinea. A small number of children are trafficked to Benin from other African countries, primarily Togo, Niger and Burkina Faso.

The Government of Benin does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so, despite limited resources. During the year, Benin continued its strong anti-trafficking victim protection and prevention efforts. Despite these overall significant efforts, the government did not show great progress in prosecuting, convicting, and punishing trafficking offenders.

Recommendations for Benin: Increase efforts to prosecute and convict trafficking offenders and collect data on such efforts; develop formal procedures for identifying trafficking victims among women and children in prostitution and children laboring in the informal sector and private residences; develop and enact legislation prohibiting trafficking of adults; finalize and issue draft decrees regulating the movement of children into and out of Benin; and begin the delayed implementation of the 2007 National Action Plan to Combat Trafficking and the National Policy and Strategy for Child Protection.

The Government of Benin demonstrated decreased law enforcement efforts to combat trafficking offenses during the past year. Benin does not prohibit all forms of trafficking, though its 2006 Act Relating to the Transportation of Minors and the Suppression of Child Trafficking criminalizes all forms of child trafficking, prescribing penalties of up to 20 years' imprisonment -- penalties that are sufficiently stringent and exceed those prescribed penalties for rape. The government was unable to provide comprehensive data on its anti-trafficking law enforcement activities in the last year. Five courts outside the capital, however, reported that together they handled a total 20 trafficking cases during the year. No further information was available related to the status of these cases within the court system. The Police Minors Protection Brigade (MPB) reported that in 2008 it arrested 58 suspected child traffickers and brought them to a Cotonou court. The government did not, however, report any prosecutions or convictions of traffickers during the year, largely due to seven months of strikes at the Ministry of Justice that weakened its capacity to record and collect trafficking crime data. This is in contrast to the preceding two years, during which the government demonstrated progressively increasing law enforcement efforts, reporting over 30 prosecutions of trafficking offenders annually and a significant numbers of convictions. The police academy curriculum continued to include instruction on law enforcement approaches to combat child trafficking. The MPB monitored Benin’s borders to identify traffickers and victims.

The Beninese government strengthened efforts to protect trafficking victims during the last year. The MPB, working in collaboration with foreign government officials, reportedly rescued 222 victims, an increase over the 190 victims identified and assisted during the previous reporting period. These victims, who were trafficked between Benin and either Nigeria, Gabon, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Mali, or the Republic of the Congo, received assistance at the government’s transit facility, where victims were placed temporarily before being referred to NGOs for care. While the government provides the transit center with electricity, water, and food, an NGO provided salaries for seven personnel who operated it. The government also reported that it collaborated with UNICEF and international NGOs to repatriate 172 foreign child trafficking victims and assist with their reintegration. Between February and September 2008, Beninese authorities collaborated with Nigerian counterparts to repatriate 55 Beninese children who had been trafficked to Nigeria’s stone quarries. In November 2008, Beninese officials worked with Cameroonian authorities to repatriate to Benin nine suspected child trafficking victims rescued from a disabled ship off the coast of Cameroon.

The Ministry of the Family and National Solidarity continued to work with UNICEF and schools to place rescued child victims in vocational and educational programs. Benin continued to use its Social Promotion Centers in each of Benin’s 77 municipalities to provide basic social services to children, including trafficking victims. The government did not repatriate victims unless a safe reinsertion program, such as schooling, vocational training, or an apprenticeship, had been arranged for each child in advance. Government officials did not follow procedures for identifying trafficking victims among women and children in prostitution. The government interviewed victims to gather evidence to prosecute traffickers, but did not encourage child victims to participate in trials to protect them from trauma, unless a judge ordered them to do so. Victims were not inappropriately incarcerated or fined for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked.

The Government of Benin sustained its trafficking prevention efforts through awareness-raising campaigns during the reporting period. In December 2008, the government finalized a two-year, donor-funded sensitization project it conducted in collaboration with a foreign government donor and UNICEF. Government officials made anti-trafficking presentations to educate communities in the northern part of the country. The project educated 177,850 people about trafficking. The Joint Nigeria-Benin Committee to Combat Child Trafficking met in November 2008 and drafted a 2008-2009 Joint Action Plan. While in 2007 the government completed a UNICEF-sponsored National Policy and Strategy for Child Protection that addresses child trafficking, and an ILO-funded five year national action plan to combat trafficking, neither plan has been implemented. Draft 2007 decrees to enact provisions of the 2006 child trafficking law regulating the movement of children remained stalled in a government review process. The government provided anti-trafficking awareness training to Beninese troops prior to their deployment abroad as part of international peacekeeping missions. The Government of Benin did not take steps to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts within Benin.