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Street Children

Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery

Poverty drives the unsuspecting poor into the hands of traffickers

Published reports & articles from 2000 to 2025                                

Republic of Mali

Mali is among the 25 poorest countries in the world, with 65% of its land area desert or semidesert and with a highly unequal distribution of income. Economic activity is largely confined to the riverine area irrigated by the Niger. About 10% of the population is nomadic and some 80% of the labor force is engaged in farming and fishing. Industrial activity is concentrated on processing farm commodities. Mali is heavily dependent on foreign aid and vulnerable to fluctuations in world prices for gold and cotton, its main exports.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]

Description: Description: Mali

Mali is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and, to a lesser extent, commercial sexual exploitation. In Mali, victims are trafficked from rural areas to urban centers, agricultural zones, and artisanal mining sites. Victims are also trafficked between Mali and other West African countries. Some notable destination countries for Malian child victims are Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Senegal, Mauritania, Niger, and Nigeria. Women and girls are trafficked primarily for domestic servitude and, to a lesser extent, forced prostitution, while boys are trafficked for forced begging and forced labor in gold mines and agricultural settings both within Mali and to neighboring countries. - U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June, 2009   Check out a later country report here and possibly a full TIP Report here


CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Mali.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Human Trafficking are of particular interest to you.  Would you like to write about Forced-Labor?  Debt Bondage? Prostitution? Forced Begging? Child Soldiers? Sale of Organs? etc.  On the other hand, you might choose to include precursors of trafficking such as poverty and hunger. There is a lot to the subject of Trafficking.  Scan other countries as well.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.


Chocolate and Slavery: Child Labor in Cote d'Ivoire

Samlanchith Chanthavong, Trade & Environment Database TED Case Studies Number 664, 2002

[accessed 20 February 2011]

[accessed 12 June 2017]

SLAVERY AND THE LINK TO CHOCOLATE - Slave traders are trafficking boys ranging from the age of 12 to 16 from their home countries and are selling them to cocoa farmers in Cote d'Ivoire. They work on small farms across the country, harvesting the cocoa beans day and night, under inhumane conditions. Most of the boys come from neighboring Mali, where agents hang around bus stations looking for children that are alone or are begging for food. They lure the kids to travel to Cote d'Ivoire with them, and then the traffickers sell the children to farmers in need of cheap labor (Raghavan, "Lured...").


*** ARCHIVES ***

Nestlé & Cargill v. Doe Series: The Prohibitions on Slavery, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking Meet the Sosa Test

Oona Hathaway, Chris Ewell, Nicole Ng, Ellen Nohle and Alasdair Phillips-Robins, Just Security, 23 November 2020

[Long URL]

[accessed 24 November 2020]

Our amicus brief argues that if any international law norms meet the Sosa threshold, they are the norms at issue in Nestlé. The respondents in Nestlé – former child slaves from Mali who were trafficked to work as slave labor on cocoa plantations in the Ivory Coast – allege that the two food giants Nestlé USA and Cargill knowingly aided and abetted these international law violations through technical assistance and financial contributions from their U.S. offices. The facts in Nestlé are particularly disturbing because they involve the exploitation of children. Unfortunately, these plaintiffs are far from alone: An estimated 4 million children are currently subjected to forced labor around the world. Children are also particularly vulnerable to human trafficking, making up around 30 percent of human trafficking victims worldwide. While child labor is more likely to be involved in production for the domestic economy, many children are employed in the supply chains of major international corporations.

2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Mali

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 15 June 2021]


Most adult forced labor occurred in the agricultural sector, especially rice, cotton, dry cereal, and corn cultivation, and in artisanal gold mining, domestic services, and in other sectors of the informal economy. Forced child labor occurred in the same sectors. Corrupt religious teachers compelled boys into begging and other types of forced labor or service (see section 7.c.).

The salt mines of Taoudeni in the North subjected men and boys, primarily of Songhai ethnicity, to a longstanding practice of debt bondage. Employers subjected many black Tuaregs to forced labor and hereditary slavery, particularly in the eastern and northern regions of Gao, Timbuktu, and Kidal (see section 6).


Child labor, particularly in its worst forms, was a serious problem. Child labor was concentrated in the agricultural sector, especially rice and cotton production, domestic services, gold mining, forced begging organized by Quranic schools, and other sectors of the informal economy.

Approximately 25 percent of children between ages five and 14 were economically active, and employers subjected more than 40 percent of economically active children to the worst forms of child labor. Many were engaged in hazardous activities in agriculture. Armed groups used child soldiers in the northern and central parts of the country (see section 1.g.). Child trafficking occurred. Employers used children, especially girls, for forced domestic labor. Employers forced black Tuareg children to work as domestic and agricultural laborers.

Child labor in artisanal gold mining was a serious problem. According to the International Trade Union Confederation, at least 20,000 children worked under extremely harsh and hazardous conditions in artisanal gold mines. Many children also worked with mercury, a toxic substance used in separating gold from its ore.

An unknown number of primary school-age boys throughout the country, mostly younger than 10, attended part-time Quranic schools funded by students and their parents. Some Quranic teachers (marabouts) often forced their students, known as garibouts or talibes, to beg for money on the streets or work as laborers in the agricultural sector; any money earned was usually returned to their teachers. In some cases talibes were also used as domestic workers without receiving compensation.

Freedom House Country Report

2020 Edition

[accessed 3 May 2020]


Although trafficking in persons is a criminal offense, prosecutions are infrequent. Many judicial officials remain unaware of the antitrafficking law, and the police lack adequate resources to combat trafficking. Traditional forms of slavery and debt bondage persist, particularly in the north, with thousands of people estimated to be living in such conditions.

Although the government has taken steps to eliminate child labor, it is a significant concern, especially in the agricultural and artisanal gold-mining sectors. Armed groups also regularly recruited and use child soldiers.

2017 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking, Bureau of International Labor Affairs, US Dept of Labor, 2018

[accessed 18 April 2019]

[accessed 3 May 2020]

Note:: Also check out this country’s report in the more recent edition DOL Worst Forms of Child Labor

[page 655]

Children, especially of the Bellah community (also known as black Tuaregs), are subject to hereditary slavery in northern Mali. (23; 25; 30; 5; 2) Some children are born into slavery, while others are born free, but remain in a dependent status through which they are forced to work with their parents for their former masters in exchange for food, money, and lodging. Child slaves perform agricultural or domestic labor and are often sexually abused. (31; 2) In addition, children, particularly those of Songhai ethnicity, work in debt bondage in the northern salt mines of Taoudenni. (32; 2)

Children involved in artisanal gold mining in western and southern Mali are exposed to toxic substances and extreme temperatures, transport heavy loads, and work for long hours. (15; 16; 17; 18; 1; 19; 20; 21) Some boys placed in the care of Koranic teachers for education are forced by their teachers to beg on the street or to work in fields, after which they must then surrender the money they have earned to their teachers. (32; 17; 1; 2)

Intermittent fighting and violence in central and northern Mali continued throughout 2017, resulting in the killing and displacement of children. (3; 33; 20; 29; 2; 4) Although the incidence of child soldiers decreased during the reporting period, children continued to be forcibly recruited and trained by non-state armed groups, including the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), the High Council for the Unity of Azawad (HCUA), the Arab Movement of Azawad (MAA), and Tuareg Imghad and Allies Self-Defense Group (GATIA), all signatories of the 2015 Peace Accord. (33; 3; 34; 4) Research found limited evidence of ties between the government and GATIA, a non-state armed group led by a Malian general, including the provision of in-kind support to GATIA. (35; 36; 2; 20; 33) The UN verified that GATIA recruited at least nine children during the reporting period. (3; 37).

Protection Project - Mali [DOC]

The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), The Johns Hopkins University

[accessed 2009]

FORMS OF TRAFFICKING - Child trafficking for forced labor predominates in Mali. In addition, women are trafficked to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to work as domestic servants.  Girls are also recruited in Nigeria and brought to Mali for commercial sexual exploitation.  An estimated 200 Malian girls younger than 17 years of age are working as domestic servants for wealthy people in Guinea. The death of three girls in a road accident in November 2003 led to investigations that uncovered a network that traffics children into Guinea from Mali for unpaid domestic servitude. The three who died were part of a group of eight Malian girls trafficked into the country. Women from Guinea reportedly travel to Bamako, the capital of Mali, to recruit young girls for domestic jobs in Guinea.  Children from the areas of Mopti, Ségou, and Sikasso are trafficked to Côte d’Ivoire to work on cotton plantations. Most children are recruited by intermediaries and sold to plantation owners; others are sent through family networks to work on plantations, in mines, in construction, or in other types of manual labor.  UNICEF estimates that more than 15,000 Malian children work in Ivorian plantations.  These children work in slavelike conditions and receive little if any wages for their labor.

Mali Signs Agreement With Senegal To Curb Child Trafficking

UN Wire, 2004-07-23 -- Source:

[accessed 20 February 2011]

Mali has signed its third agreement with a neighboring country to fight child trafficking, which UNICEF says occurs in 89 percent of African countries. Senegal joined Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso as signatories to the agreement, which mandates an annual survey of child trafficking to make sure children sent over their borders are kept safe.

GUINEA: Child trafficking from Mali revealed by car crash

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN

[accessed 9 March 2015]

The death of three girls in a road accident last month led to investigations which revealed the existence of a network the trafficks children into Guinea from neighbouring Mali for use as unpaid domestic servants.  United Nations officials in the Guinean capital Conakry said the three who died were part of a group of eight Malian girls smuggled into the country for use as forced labour.  The five surviving girls, two of whom were injured in the crash, were found living with a woman in Conakry and have since been returned home.

Attempts to prevent human trafficking are making conditions worse for voluntary migrants

The Medical News, 5 June 2004 -- Source:

[accessed 20 February 2011]

A survey of close to 1000 migrants in Mali found that only four had been deceived, exploited, or not paid for their labour. Rather, young people voluntarily sought employment abroad to experience urban lifestyles, learn new languages, and accumulate possessions.

Mali rescues over 100 from child traffickers

Reuters, Bamako, Dec. 16, 2003

[accessed 8 September 2011]

Malian authorities have rescued more than 100 children and teenagers from suspected traffickers believed to be taking them into forced labor in rice fields, officials in the West African nation said Tuesday.  Police stopped 112 minors aged between 10 and 18 as they traveled in buses over the weekend in the Segou region, northeast of the capital Bamako. They arrested two suspected traffickers.

Mali's dangerous desert gateway

Joan Baxter, BBC News, Bamako, Mali, 25 June, 2002

[accessed 20 February 2011]

The city of Gao in northeastern Mali was once the wealthy capital of the great Songhay Empire of West Africa.  Today it has fallen on hard times and become the impoverished capital of human trafficking from West Africa to Europe.

Africa: Migrants, Slavery

Immigration Laws: May, 2001 - Number #18

[accessed 7 July 2013]

MALI AND SLAVERY - There are an estimated 15,000 Malian youth ages 15 to 18 who are enslaved in the Ivory Coast, lured by smugglers who promise the youth and their parents high wages and training. Instead, most do manual labor in cocoa plantations.

A slave is defined by the ILO as someone "forced to work under physical or mental threat, and where the owner or employer controls the person completely - where a person is bought or sold."

Mali's children in chocolate slavery

Humphrey Hawksley in Mali, BBC News, 12 April 2001

[accessed 20 February 2011]

At a run-down police station in Sikasso, a small town in Mali, the files on missing children are endless.  The sad truth is that many have been kidnapped and sold into slavery. The going price is about US$30.  The local police chief is in no doubt where the children have gone. "It's definitely slavery over there," he said. "The kids have to work so hard they get sick and some even die."

Child Slaves Caught in Glittering Traps

Sikasso Mali, and Sinfra Ivory Coast, April 17, 2001

-- Source: Corinna Schuler, National Post (4/17/01)

[accessed 20 February 2011]

The next day, the Sylla brothers found themselves captive in a windowless hut -- caught in the web of smugglers who coax unknown numbers of young people out of impoverished Mali each year and sell them into hard labor in the prosperous country next door, Ivory Coast. The Sylla brothers sold for the price of a pair of shoes -- $63 apiece.  The years that followed are a blur of backbreaking labor, vicious beatings, food deprivation and dark nights in captivity.

Mali's children in slavery

Joan Baxter in Bamako, BBC News, 29 September 2000

[accessed 20 February 2011]

They number about 15,000 and their plight is enough to "make you weep", says Malian Minister of Woman and Family Affairs They are child slaves from Mali, between the ages of six and 16, and they work on plantations in neighbouring Ivory Coast, where Ms Thiero says they are regularly beaten, starved and locked in tiny dark huts to keep them from fleeing.  "One small boy brought me to tears when he told of how he drank his own urine for three days because the plantation owners had locked him up without food or water,"

Child Labour Persists Around The World: More Than 13 Percent Of Children 10-14 Are Employed

International Labour Organisation (ILO) News, Geneva, 10 June 1996

[accessed 8 September 2011]

[accessed 5 February 2018]

"Today's child worker will be tomorrow's uneducated and untrained adult, forever trapped in grinding poverty. No effort should be spared to break that vicious circle", says ILO Director-General Michel Hansenne.

Among the countries with a high percentage of their children from 10-14 years in the work force are: Mali, 54.5 percent; Burkina Faso, 51; Niger and Uganda, both 45; Kenya, 41.3; Senegal, 31.4; Bangladesh, 30.1; Nigeria, 25.8; Haiti, 25; Turkey, 24; Côte d'Ivoire, 20.5; Pakistan, 17.7; Brazil, 16.1; India, 14.4; China, 11.6; and Egypt, 11.2.

Concluding Observations Of The Committee On The Rights Of The Child (CRC)

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 8 October 1999

[accessed 20 February 2011]

[23] The Committee welcomes the recent initiative undertaken by the State party in establishing the National Commission to Study inter-country Adoption and Combat Trafficking in Children. The Committee notes that the final report of the Commission, due in October 1999, will include legislative and other recommendations to protect the rights of children in situations of adoption and to prevent and combat the phenomenon of trafficking in children. The Committee remains concerned, however, at the absence of legislation, policies and institutions to regulate inter-country adoptions. The lack of monitoring with respect to both domestic and inter-country adoptions and the widespread practice of kalifa (informal adoptions) are also matters of concern.

[36] While the Committee notes the efforts of the State party, it remains concerned at the increasing incidence of sale and trafficking of children, particularly girls, and the lack of adequate legal and other measures to prevent and combat this phenomenon.


Freedom House Country Report

2018 Edition

[accessed 3 May 2020]


Although trafficking in persons is a criminal offense, prosecutions are infrequent. Many judicial officials remain unaware of the antitrafficking law, and the police lacked adequate resources to combat trafficking. Traditional forms of slavery and debt bondage persist, particularly in the north, with thousands of people estimated to be living in such conditions.

Although the government has taken steps to eliminate child labor, it is a significant concern, especially in the agricultural and artisanal gold-mining sectors. Armed groups also regularly recruited and used child soldiers, and in 2017, the government reportedly assisted militia groups that included child soldiers.

Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 10 February 2020]

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS – The country was a source, transit, and destination for trafficking. Most of the trafficking occurred within the country's borders during the year. Children were trafficked to rice fields in the central regions; boys were trafficked to mines in the south; and girls were trafficked for involuntary domestic servitude in Bamako. Victims are generally trafficked into agricultural work, domestic servitude and to a lesser extent into begging, gold mining, and prostitution. The victims were usually from the central regions of the country and not from a specific ethnic group. Women and girls were trafficked from Nigeria for sexual exploitation. Traffickers were mainly from the country.

The Department of Labor’s 2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

U.S. Dept of Labor Bureau of International Labor Affairs, 2005

[accessed 20 February 2011]

Note:: Also check out this country’s report in the more recent edition DOL Worst Forms of Child Labor

INCIDENCE AND NATURE OF CHILD LABOR - Mali is a source of trafficked children, most of whom are sold into forced labor in Côte d'Ivoire to work on coffee, cotton, and cocoa farms, or in domestic labor.  Organized networks of traffickers promise parents that they will provide paid employment for their children, but then sell the children to commercial farm owners for a profit.  Mali is also reported to be a transit country for children trafficked to and from neighboring countries.

CURRENT GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND PROGRAMS TO ELIMINATE THE WORST FORMS OF CHILD LABOR - The Government of Mali is one of nine countries participating in the US DOL-funded ILO-IPEC project to combat the trafficking of children for exploitive labor in West and Central Africa.  The government is also participating in a US DOL-funded program to increase access to quality, basic education to children at risk of child trafficking in Mali.

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