[ Country-by-Country Reports ]

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

The Gambia is a source, transit, and destination country for children and women trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Within The Gambia, women and girls and, to a lesser extent, boys are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation, in particular to meet the demand for European child sex tourists, as well as for domestic servitude. Anti-trafficking activists report that in the last few years commercial sexual exploitation of children has moved from large hotels to small guest houses and private homes as a result of large hotels’ enforcement of a voluntary code of conduct against child sex tourism. Boys are trafficked within the country for forced begging by religious teachers and for street vending. Transnationally, women, girls, and boys from neighboring countries are trafficked to The Gambia for the same purposes listed above. Primary source countries for this trafficking are Senegal, Mali, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea and Benin. The trafficking of boys between The Gambia and Senegal by religious teachers for forced begging is particularly prevalent. Gambian women and girls are trafficked to Senegal for domestic servitude, and possibly for commercial sexual exploitation.

The Government of The Gambia 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. The government’s law enforcement efforts to address trafficking increased with the prosecution of two trafficking offenders and the conviction of one of them. The government also made slightly increased victim protection efforts by providing limited services to children trafficked for forced begging. The government did not show progress, however, in identifying and assisting trafficking victims among women and girls in prostitution.

Recommendations for The Gambia: Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and punish trafficking offenders; develop formal procedures for identifying trafficking victims among women and girls in prostitution; incorporate trafficking training into the standard police curriculum; educate all government officials on the distinction between smuggling and trafficking; identify an increased number of trafficking victims and provide them with care; and end the practice of placing child sex trafficking victims in prisons.

The Government of The Gambia demonstrated some increased efforts to combat trafficking through law enforcement actions during the last year. The Gambia prohibits all forms of trafficking through its October 2007 Trafficking in Persons Act, which prescribes a penalty of 15 years to life imprisonment for all forms of trafficking. This penalty is sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those of other grave crimes, such as rape. The Gambia’s 2005 Children’s Act also prohibits all forms of child trafficking, prescribing a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. The government reported that it investigated four trafficking cases and prosecuted two trafficking offenders. One of these defendants, a Senegalese national, was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment with hard labor for trafficking Gambian children to Senegal. In November 2008, police arrested a Gambian national for trafficking a child for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation by a New Zealand national in Banjul. The Gambian was prosecuted under a procurement statute and subsequently acquitted. During the year, authorities demonstrated a weak understanding of trafficking by conflating it with smuggling. The Secretary of State for Justice gave a one-time lecture to prosecutors and a prosecutor traveled with UNICEF at UNICEF’s expense to border posts to distribute the law. Four individuals were prosecuted under the anti-trafficking law for actions that appear to be smuggling rather than trafficking. The government did not institute systematic trafficking training for law enforcement officials, though they did take part in donor-funded trafficking trainings. Officials monitored The Gambia’s borders to ensure that children crossing them are traveling with a parent or a legal guardian, but reports suggested that traffickers’ use of false travel documents hindered these efforts.

The Gambian government demonstrated minimal victim protection efforts during the last year. The police referred four victims to the Department of Social Welfare, which reunited three of them with their parents. The fourth victim was a Nigerian girl placed temporarily in the home of a Gambian female police officer after being trafficked to The Gambia for forced labor; she ran away. In a joint project with UNICEF and an international NGO, the government operated a drop-in center for destitute children, the majority of whom were boys forced to beg by religious instructors and street children vulnerable to being trafficked. The center provided non-formal education, medical and hygiene services, and counseling. The government provided salaries for two social workers at the center and some additional funding. The government-operated and funded its own 24-hour shelter for destitute children, some of whom may be trafficking victims. No specialized facilities existed for trafficking victims, however, and the majority of children referred did not appear to be trafficking victims. The Gambia has not yet developed a system for collecting victim care data.

Although the government established a toll-free victim hotline in 2005, it no longer functions. Although the 2007 Trafficking in Persons Act encourages victims to assist in investigations and prosecutions by offering them temporary visas pending criminal or civil actions, this provision has not yet been applied. During the year, authorities encouraged three trafficking victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers. The government did not provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they might face hardship or retribution. While labor trafficking victims were not inappropriately incarcerated or fined for unlawful acts as a direct result of being trafficked, authorities detained children found in prostitution in the juvenile wing of the Jeshwang prison pending investigation of their cases. The government did not follow procedures to identify trafficking victims among women arrested for prostitution.

The Government of The Gambia demonstrated moderate efforts to prevent trafficking through awareness-raising during the reporting period. In June 2008, the government hosted an ECOWAS workshop on trafficking in which members of the National TIP Taskforce participated; the government contributed $4,000 towards the funding of the seminar. In December 2008, The Gambia’s anti-trafficking task force finalized the national action plan to combat trafficking. The government has taken steps to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts by raiding brothels and prosecuting a foreign sex tourist. In the aforementioned case, the New Zealand national arrested in connection with the sex trafficking of a Gambian child was convicted and sentenced to one year of imprisonment under the Tourism Offenses Act. Gambian troops deployed abroad as part of peacekeeping missions received some human trafficking awareness training prior to their deployment.