[ Country-by-Country Reports ]

COTE D'IVOIRE (TIER 2 Watch List)   [Extracted from U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2009]

Cote d’Ivoire is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children trafficked for forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Trafficking within the country is more prevalent than transnational trafficking, and the majority of victims are children. Within Cote d’Ivoire, women and girls are trafficked primarily for domestic servitude, restaurant labor, and sexual exploitation. A 2007 study by the German government’s foreign aid organization found that 85 percent of females in prostitution in two Ivoirian districts were children. Boys are trafficked within the country for agricultural and service labor. They are also trafficked from Ghana, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Togo, and Ghana to Cote d’Ivoire for forced agricultural labor, including work in the cocoa sector. Boys from Guinea are trafficked to Cote d’Ivoire for forced mining, from Togo for forced construction labor, from Benin for forced carpentry work, and from Ghana and Togo for forced labor in the fishing industry. Women and girls are trafficked to and from other West and Central African countries for domestic servitude and forced street vending. Women and girls are trafficked from other West African countries, most notably from Ghana, Nigeria, and Burkina Faso, to Cote d’Ivoire for commercial sexual exploitation. Women are trafficked from and through Cote d’Ivoire to Europe for sexual exploitation.

The Government of Cote d’Ivoire does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government’s law enforcement efforts to address trafficking increased with the conviction of sex traffickers over the last year. Despite these efforts, the government did not demonstrate progress over the last year in prosecute traffickers of children for prostitution or forced labor; therefore, Cote d’Ivoire is placed on Tier 2 Watch List.

Recommendations for Cote d’Ivoire: Increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers; develop systematic procedures for identifying trafficking victims among women and girls in prostitution; step up efforts to educate government officials about trafficking, particularly child sex trafficking; intensify efforts to provide care to trafficking victims by making available funds allocated for construction of victim shelters; ensure that trafficking victims are not penalized for acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked.

The Government of Cote d’Ivoire demonstrated increased efforts to address trafficking though law enforcement during the reporting period. Ivoirian law does not prohibit all forms of trafficking. However, Penal Code Article 378 prohibits forced labor, prescribing a sufficiently stringent penalty of one to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of approximately $800 to -$2,200. Penal Code Article 376 criminalizes entering into contracts that deny freedom to a third person, prescribing a sufficiently stringent punishment of five to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine. Penal Code Articles 335 to 337 prohibit recruiting or offering children for prostitution, prescribing penalties of one to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for rape. Ivoirian law does not criminalize the trafficking of adults for commercial sexual exploitation. Conscription of children for armed conflict is prohibited by Article 2 of the military code. The government’s 2007 draft law prohibiting child trafficking and child labor awaits approval by the National Assembly, but the Assembly’s mandate ended in December 2005 and new legislative elections have not yet been held.

From April to July 2008, Ivoirian police investigated three trafficking cases and sent one suspected trafficker to a tribunal for prosecution. The suspect was released without being charged. A different suspect arrested in April 2008 for trafficking two Beninese children for construction labor in the housing industry was also released without being formally charged. In October 2008, the UN Operation in Cote d’Ivoire reported that a Beninese man allegedly forced five children from Benin to work long hours on cocoa plantations and in restaurants in Vavoua. Officials from the Forces Nouvelles (FN), which carried out the 2002 rebellion and remain in control of some areas of the country, arrested and placed him in prison. When the man agreed to pay the equivalent of $1,600 to house and eventually repatriate the victims, the FN released him. The government reported that in 2008, it obtained the convictions of four Nigerien nationals who had trafficked women from Niger and Nigeria to Cote d’Ivoire for sexual exploitation. The court imposed penalties of from 12 to 36 months’ imprisonment and fines on the convicted traffickers. The government did not report any prosecutions of individuals subjecting children to trafficking in prostitution or in the cocoa sector.

Police reported quarterly raids on brothels. Officials reported that in two cases during the year, police questioned women in prostitution to identify whether they were trafficking victims. NGOs reported that law enforcement officials continued to exploit women in prostitution, sometimes threatening to arrest foreign women without documentation if they refused to engage in sex. During the year, Ivoirian police conducted a joint investigation with Ghanaian authorities to pursue a Ghanaian trafficker who had taken two Togolese children into Cote d’Ivoire. The government also paid to lodge judges who attended a donor-funded anti-trafficking training course.

The Ivoirian government did not fully protect victims of trafficking during the last year. There are no government shelters for victims. Victims are referred to NGOs and international organizations for care. While the government allocated $600,000 to build centers in its 2007 – 2009 national action plan against the worst forms of child labor and child trafficking, it has not yet made funds available to begin construction.

The government continued to operate community education centers and mobile schools for victims of child trafficking and the worst forms of child labor. The National Committee Against Trafficking also repatriated 25 child victims of trafficking to their home countries during the reporting period. The committee referred an additional 21 children to the NGO BICE (Bureau International Catholique de l’Enfance) for repatriation. There is currently no formal government program for Ivoirian nationals repatriated to Cote d’Ivoire, although the Ministry of Family is occasionally called on to provide assistance. In September 2008, the Ministry of Family (MOF), in collaboration with UNICEF, published a manual detailing government procedures for providing care to child labor and trafficking victims.

The MOF is responsible for all aspects of foreign victim repatriation, including notifying the victims’ consular offices or embassies, informing officials in the victims’ home countries, contacting NGOs with the means to assist with shelter and repatriation, and organizing transportation expenses for victims and their escorts during the repatriation process. Once victims reach their country of origin, MOF representatives entrust them to government authorities.

Both the MOF and the National Police employed social workers to assist victims immediately upon their identification. During the year, however, police did not identify any children being prostituted in a brothel as trafficking victims, instead characterizing them as consensually in prostitution. The government systematically encouraged victims to assist in trafficking investigations and prosecutions. The government provided temporary residence permits to foreign victims from countries where they might face hardship or retribution. ECOWAS nationals, including trafficking victims, may legally reside and work in Cote d’Ivoire.

The Government of Cote d’Ivoire demonstrated efforts to prevent trafficking during the reporting period. The Ministry of Family conducted awareness-raising campaigns to educate local government officials, community leaders, and members of anti-trafficking village committees about the problem. In June 2008, the Ministry of Family launched a donor-funded national awareness campaign against trafficking and child labor. The Ministry organized UNICEF and ILO-sponsored events, such as public conferences and a film for children. The government also published a study conducted jointly with private cocoa companies on the incidence of child labor and forced adult labor in its cocoa sector in June 2008. The study found the incidence of child labor exploitation to be significant.

During the year, the police reported that they took steps to reduce demand for commercial sex acts by raiding brothels, but did not follow systematic procedures in all cases to identify trafficking victims among females in prostitution. Cote d’Ivoire’s 2008 budget allocated $4.3 million toward implementing all aspects of the national action plan against child trafficking and the worst forms of child labor; however, no funds were disbursed during the reporting period. The government did not take measures to insure that its nationals deployed abroad as part of peacekeeping missions do not engage in or facilitate trafficking. Cote d’Ivoire has not ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.