[ Country-by-Country Reports ]

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

Guinea-Bissau is a source country for children trafficked to other West African countries and within the country for forced begging, forced agricultural labor, and commercial sexual exploitation. The majority of victims are boys who are religious students, called talibe, who are trafficked by religious instructors called marabouts to other West African countries, primarily Senegal, for forced begging. The eastern cities of Bafata and Gabu are key source areas for talibe, and the most frequented route to Senegal is overland via the porous border, especially near the town of Pirada. A 2008 study by the African Center for the Advanced Studies in Management found that 30 percent of children forced to beg in Dakar were from Guinea-Bissau. Deceived into believing that their children will receive a religious education, parents often agree to send their child away with marabouts. Instead, the instructors force the children to beg daily for up to 12 hours in urban centers and physically abuse them if they fail to collect a certain quota of money. Bissau-Guinean boys are also trafficked to Senegal for forced labor in cotton fields. NGOs report that Bissau-Guinean girls who perform domestic work within the country and in Senegal may be victims of trafficking, while girls reportedly are trafficked to Senegal for forced domestic labor. Within Guinea-Bissau, girls are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation in small bars and restaurants. UNICEF estimates that 200 Bissau-Guinean children are trafficked each month. NGOs report that the large population of children from Guinea-Conakry engaged in street vending and shoe shining in Guinea-Bissau may indicate that Guinea-Bissau is a destination country for trafficking victims from Guinea.

The Government of Guinea-Bissau 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 continued to help to protect victims and prevent trafficking through monthly $1,000 contributions to a local NGO that operates a shelter and raises public awareness about trafficking. Bissau-Guinean authorities also continued to intercept victims and refer victims to two NGOs for assistance. Despite these overall significant efforts, the government did not demonstrate progress in its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts; therefore, Guinea-Bissau is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. Destabilized by internal conflict during the year, Guinea-Bissau’s anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts remained poor.

Recommendations for Guinea-Bissau: Enact the draft law prohibiting trafficking in persons; increase efforts to prosecute and punish trafficking offenders under forced labor and trafficking-related laws; investigate establishments where children are subjected to commercial sexual exploitation in order to rescue child victims and arrest trafficking offenders; investigate whether girls are trafficked internally and to Senegal for domestic servitude; and finalize and enact the draft anti-trafficking national action plan.

The Government of Guinea-Bissau demonstrated weak anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the last year. Bissau-Guinean law does not prohibit all forms of trafficking. However, forced labor is criminalized under article 37 of the country’s penal code, which prescribes a penalty of life imprisonment. During the year, the government collaborated with UNICEF to develop draft legislation prohibiting child trafficking. The National Assembly was dissolved in August 2008, however, before the law could be passed. Police did not actively investigate trafficking cases, in part because they lack basic resources, such as vehicles, electricity, and jails. Police continued to detain suspected traffickers they encountered and arranged for their transport to the police headquarters in Gabu. Rather than charging and prosecuting suspects, however, police released them. During the year, the government reported that it arrested nine suspected traffickers, though it reported no trafficking prosecutions or convictions. The government continued requiring parents to sign a contract that held them criminally liable if their children were re-trafficked after having been rescued and returned home. NGOs reported that such contracts have been effective in reducing the rate of re-trafficking.

The Government of Guinea-Bissau continued solid efforts to help NGOs provide care for trafficking victims during the year. While the government did not operate victim shelters, it contributed funding to an NGO’s victim shelter in Gabo. Police continued to refer victims to that NGO -- AMIC -- and another NGO -- SOS Child Talibe -- that operated a small shelter in Bafata. Police assisted both NGOs in locating victims’ families. During the year, the government donated to SOS Child Talibe an abandoned building for use as a new victim shelter. The Bissau-Guinean Embassy in Senegal continued to provide care to trafficking victims by assisting NGOs and government officials in Senegal to identify and repatriate victims. The Embassy used its operating budget to assist trafficking victims and was later reimbursed by its Ministry of Foreign Affairs. During the year, the government cooperated with NGOs and IOM to repatriate 63 children from Senegal. A total of 168 victims received assistance from NGOs during the year, of which approximately 160 were referred by government authorities. The government did not encourage victims, all of whom were children, to participate in trafficking investigations and prosecutions, but sometimes requested that parents and family members provide lead information. While authorities employed procedures to identify labor trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, no procedures were employed for identifying sex trafficking victims among women and children in prostitution. Victims were not penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked.

The Government of Guinea-Bissau made modest efforts to raise awareness about trafficking during the reporting period. Government funds to AMIC contributed to the NGO’s October 2008 training of religious teachers about trafficking. The government also helped finance AMIC’s anti-trafficking radio broadcasts and visits to villages in source areas to raise awareness about trafficking. Guinea-Bissau’s Ambassador to Senegal continued to contribute to anti-trafficking radio broadcasts to educate parents in Muslim communities about trafficking. High-level government coordination to address trafficking remained weak. In 2008, the Ministry of Solidarity (MOS) formed an anti-trafficking inter-ministerial committee that met weekly. A separate anti-trafficking committee formed by the Ministry of Labor reportedly also met during the year however, without coordinating with the MOS’s committee. In collaboration with the ILO, the government drafted an anti-trafficking action plan. The government did not take measures to reduce demand for commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor during the year. Guinea-Bissau has not ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.