[ Country-by-Country Reports ]

CAMEROON (TIER 2 Watch List)   [Extracted from U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2008]

Cameroon is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Most victims are children trafficked within the country, with girls primarily trafficked for domestic servitude and sexual exploitation. Both boys and girls are also trafficked within Cameroon for forced labor in sweatshops, bars, restaurants, on tea and cocoa plantations, in mines, and for street vending and possibly for forced begging. Authorities report that within the country some parents loan their child for monetary compensation for forced labor in domestic service, street vending, or prostitution. Children are trafficked to Cameroon from Nigeria, Chad, the Central African Republic, Congo, Benin, and Niger for forced labor in agriculture, fishing, street vending, and spare-parts shops. Children from Mali are trafficked to Cameroon by religious instructors for forced begging. Cameroon is a transit country for children trafficked between Gabon and Nigeria, and from Nigeria to Saudi Arabia. It is a source country for women transported by sex trafficking rings to Europe, primarily France, Germany, and Switzerland. Reports indicate that traditional religious leaders may subject individuals to hereditary slavery practices rooted in ancestral master-slave relationships in some northern chiefdoms.

The Government of Cameroon does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these overall efforts, the government did not show evidence of progress in prosecuting and punishing trafficking offenders or protecting victims; therefore, Cameroon is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. While Cameroon pursued some trafficking investigations, the government reported no prosecutions or convictions and victim protection efforts remained weak.

Recommendations for Cameroon: Increase efforts to prosecute and convict trafficking offenders; educate police, judges, lawyers, and social workers about the law against child trafficking; finalize and enact the draft law criminalizing the trafficking of adults; investigate reports of hereditary slavery in the Northern Province; and develop and implement formal procedures through which law enforcement and victim protection officials may systematically identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations and refer them for care.

The Government of Cameroon demonstrated minimal efforts to combat trafficking through law enforcement means during the last year. Cameroon does not prohibit all forms of trafficking, though it criminalizes child trafficking and slavery through its 2005 Law Combating Child Trafficking and Slavery, which prescribes a penalty of 20 years' imprisonment -- a punishment that is sufficiently stringent. Article 2(3) of Cameroon’s Labor Code prohibits forced labor, prescribing an inadequate penalty of $100 to $3,000 in fines. The government’s 2006 draft law prohibiting trafficking has yet to be finalized and approved. Penal Code Article 346 criminalizes procuring, aiding, facilitating, or profiting from the prostitution of a child less than 16 years of age. This article prescribes a punishment of one to ten years’ imprisonment and a fine, which is sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties for rape. The government did not report any prosecutions or convictions of trafficking offenders during the year, though it reported that it investigated three trafficking cases, one of which was conducted jointly with Beninese authorities, and arrested one suspect in September 2008. Three suspects arrested in January 2008 for allegedly trafficking seven children have not yet been prosecuted. A suspect arrested in December 2007 for trafficking a child who died in his custody remains out on bail. A Yaounde court in 2008 held hearings on six additional trafficking cases derived from arrests made in 2007; the cases remain pending in the court system. The government did not investigate traditional leaders in the Northern Provinces suspected of keeping hereditary servants in conditions of involuntary servitude. The Ministry of Justice in November 2008 opened a pilot data center as part of its effort to develop a computerized system for the collection of trafficking crime data. The database is expected to be operational by 2012. In October 2008, the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms jointly funded with the UN an anti-trafficking seminar for law enforcement officers and magistrates on strategies for investigating and prosecuting trafficking offenses.

The Government of Cameroon demonstrated weak efforts to protect trafficking victims over the last year. The government did not operate trafficking victim shelters, but rather referred victims to NGOs providing shelter and other victim services. The government reported that its nine centers for vulnerable children and additional centers for street children were accessible to trafficking victims. Authorities did not follow systematic procedures for identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as street children, women in prostitution, and illegal immigrants. As a result, some victims may have been inappropriately incarcerated or fined for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. Officials identified 18 suspected trafficking victims during the year and provided care to 15 of them at a government center for abandoned and orphaned children until Beninese officials repatriated them to Benin. The government referred one trafficking victim to his country’s consulate in Cameroon and another to an NGO for care. In September 2008, Cameroonian officials cooperated with Nigerian counterparts to repatriate a 12-year-old Nigerian girl who had been trafficked to Cameroon for forced domestic labor. The government encouraged victims to assist in trafficking investigations and prosecutions, though as noted earlier, there were no reported prosecutions during the year. The government provided foreign victims with temporary residency status until they were repatriated. It did not, however, provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they face hardship or retribution.

The Government of Cameroon continued its efforts to prevent trafficking during the year. To commemorate the Day of the African Child in June 2008, Cameroon organized a children’s National Assembly session at which child Parliamentarians passed a resolution calling for the creation of structures to care for trafficking victims. Government radio and television broadcast anti-trafficking messages. The Cameroonian government briefed troops on anti-trafficking issues and related norms of behavior before they were deployed on international peacekeeping missions. In collaboration with the ICRC, the government also organized seminars for military and police leadership to keep them updated on these international anti-trafficking norms. Cameroon has not finalized or adopted its draft national plan of action against trafficking. An existing inter-ministerial anti-trafficking committee did not meet during the past year. The government made no discernable efforts to reduce demand for forced labor or demand for commercial sex acts during the year.