[ Country-by-Country Reports ]

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

Djibouti is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and domestic servitude. Large numbers of voluntary economic migrants from Ethiopia and Somalia pass illegally through Djibouti en route to Yemen and other locations in the Middle East; among this group, a small number of women and girls may fall victim to involuntary domestic servitude or commercial sexual exploitation after reaching Djibouti City or the Ethiopia-Djibouti trucking corridor. Others fall victim to human trafficking after reaching their destinations in the Middle East. Djibouti’s large refugee population – comprised of Somalis, Ethiopians, and Eritreans – remains vulnerable to various forms of exploitation, including human trafficking. A small number of girls from impoverished Djiboutian families may engage in prostitution with the encouragement of family members or other persons engaged in prostitution. Prostitution in Djibouti occurs in apartments, brothels, and on the streets; members of foreign militaries stationed in Djibouti reportedly contribute to the demand for women and girls in prostitution, including trafficking victims. Polish authorities identified one female Djiboutian trafficking victim in 2008.

The Government of Djibouti does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these significant overall efforts, the government showed only limited evidence of progress in prosecuting specific human trafficking offenses and in raising public awareness of the crime; therefore, Djibouti is placed on Tier 2 Watch List.

Recommendations for Djibouti: Continue to enforce the anti-trafficking statute through the successful prosecution of trafficking offenders; launch a nationwide campaign to educate all levels of government officials and the general public on the issue of human trafficking; develop a plan for providing training on the anti-trafficking law and its provisions to law enforcement and social welfare officials, including judges, lawyers, police, immigration officers, and social workers; establish formal policies and procedures for government officials to proactively identify and interview potential trafficking victims and transfer them to the care, when appropriate, of local NGOs or international organizations; and establish mechanisms for providing increased protective services to trafficking victims, possibly through the forging of partnerships with NGOs or civil society organizations.

The Government of Djibouti made nascent efforts to bring trafficking offenders and migrant smugglers to justice during the reporting period. Law 210, “Regarding the Fight Against Human Trafficking,” enacted in December 2007, covers both internal and transnational trafficking and prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons. It provides for the protection of victims regardless of ethnicity, gender, or nationality, and prescribes penalties of up to 30 years’ imprisonment for trafficking offenders. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other grave crimes, such as rape. The Ministry of Justice reported its use of Law 210 during the reporting period to prosecute and convict illegal migrant smugglers and their accomplices, but it did not provide further information on such cases; it is unclear whether any of them involve human trafficking. Throughout the year, Djibouti's Brigade des Moeurs (Vice Police) conducted regular nighttime sweeps of the capital’s bars and streets and preventatively detained an unknown number of Ethiopian and Somali minors suspected to be engaged in prostitution. The brigade reportedly detained their exploiters as well; specific information regarding the punishment of pimps was not provided.

With few resources itself and a very small pool of local NGOs, the government had few options for meeting the needs of children exploited in prostitution during the year. One NGO, in consultation with the Ministry of Women, continued to operate a drop-in day center for street children at risk of becoming victims of trafficking, prostitution, or other forms of exploitation. The Council of Ministers took no action in 2008 to ensure comprehensive care for victims as mandated under Article 18 of Law 210. After detaining children on suspicion of engaging in prostitution, police attempted to locate and meet with parents or other family members to discuss appropriate child protection; children were then released to the care of family members. As a last resort, Ethiopian and Somali children detained by police on suspicion of involvement in prostitution were housed in quarters at the Police Academy before deportation. In 2008, renovation began on several rooms at the academy to improve accommodations for these children. Police worked with the Ministry of Health’s clinic and hospitals, as well as NGOs, to provide medical care to victims of child prostitution. No charges were filed against minors detained on suspicion of engaging in prostitution in 2008. The police began a study of the family situations of prostituted minors in 2008.

The government accommodated a growing number of asylum-seeking defectors from the Eritrean military during the reporting period. As of March 2009, the government and UNHCR registered 129 Eritrean military defectors – some of whom may be trafficking victims – as asylum-seekers after conducting joint interviews. The government has not yet developed a formal referral process to transfer trafficking victims to the care of NGOs, or a system for proactively identifying victims of trafficking among vulnerable populations. Authorities did not encourage victims to participate in investigations or prosecutions of traffickers.

During the reporting period, the government did not launch an information campaign specifically targeted at raising public awareness of human trafficking. In an effort to prevent the forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation of Ethiopian and Somali illegal migrants in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, however, the state-run media published numerous stories on the dangers of illegal migration. In addition, the military regularly detained boats suspected to be smuggling African migrants to Yemen and imprisoned their operators. Article 16 of Law 210 requires the government to establish or support policies or programs to prevent human trafficking through awareness campaigns, training programs, and social and economic initiatives; no discernable progress was made in any of these areas during the reporting period. During the reporting period, the government invited IOM to open an office in Djibouti, and provided office space within the Ministry of Labor. In March 2009, government officials began collaborating with IOM for an awareness campaign on the dangers of irregular migration, including the risk of becoming a trafficking victim. The government worked to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts by continuing to investigate child sexual exploitation cases and deploying a regular police vice squad. The government did not take any known measures in 2008 to reduce the demand for forced labor.