[ Country-by-Country Reports ]

NIGER (TIER 3)   [Extracted from U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2009]

Niger is a source, transit, and destination country for children and women trafficked for forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Caste-based slavery practices, rooted in ancestral master-slave relationships, continue primarily in the northern part of the country. An estimated 8,800 to 43,000 Nigeriens live under conditions of traditional hereditary slavery. Children within Niger are trafficked for forced begging by religious instructors, forced labor in gold mines, domestic servitude, sexual exploitation, and possibly for forced labor in agriculture and stone quarries. Nigerien children, primarily girls, are also subjected to commercial sexual exploitation along the border with Nigeria, particularly in the towns of Birni N’Konni and Zinder, and boys are trafficked to Nigeria and Mali for forced begging and manual labor. Women and children from Benin, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria and Togo are trafficked to and through Niger for domestic servitude, sexual exploitation, forced labor in mines and on farms, and as mechanics and welders. Nigerien women and children are trafficked from Niger to North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe for domestic servitude and sexual exploitation.

The Government of Niger does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. The Nigerien government demonstrated marginal efforts to combat human trafficking, including traditional slavery, during the last year.

Recommendations for Niger: Pass and enact draft 2006 legislation against trafficking; strengthen efforts to prosecute and punish trafficking offenders, particularly those guilty of slavery offenses; increase efforts to rescue victims of traditional slavery practices; and increase efforts to educate the public about the law criminalizing traditional slavery practices.

The Government of Niger demonstrated weak law enforcement efforts to address child trafficking and traditional slavery. Niger prohibits slavery through a 2003 amendment to Article 270 of its Penal Code and prohibits forced and compulsory labor through Article 4 of its Labor Code. Penal Code Articles 292 and 293 prohibit procurement of a child for prostitution. Niger does not, however, prohibit other forms of trafficking. The government’s 2006 draft law against trafficking still awaits adoption by the Council of Ministers. The prescribed penalty of 10 to 30 years’ imprisonment for slavery offenses is sufficiently stringent. The penalty prescribed for forced labor, a fine ranging from $48 to $598 and from six days to one month’s imprisonment, is not sufficiently stringent.

In the last year, law enforcement authorities arrested 11 individuals suspected of trafficking 81 children. Six suspects were released without being charged, while five were charged with the abduction of minors and remain in preventative detention pending investigation. The government cooperated with Malian and Togolese officials to investigate and arrest three suspected traffickers from Mali and one trafficker from Togo. Border officials cooperated with their Beninese counterparts to monitor the border of Niger and Benin for human trafficking activity. In December 2008, the Niamey Court of Appeals held hearings on the 2006 enslavement case Timidria and Assibit Wanagoda vs. Tafane Abouzeidi, found no grounds for prosecution, and dismissed the case. An additional 2006 enslavement case, Midi Ajinalher vs. Hamad Alamine and three brothers is still pending before the same court. In June 2008, senior Ministry of Labor officials delivered presentations on labor laws and core labor standards at an ILO-funded forced labor training event.

In October 2008, the ECOWAS Court of Justice ruled that the Government of Niger’s administrative and legal services failed to protect a Nigerien woman sold into slavery in the case Timidria and Hadidjatou Mani Koraou vs. the Government of Niger. When the victim, who was sold into slavery at the age of 12 for $500, originally brought her case to a Nigerien court, the judge found that no slavery existed. He then sentenced the victim to six months’ imprisonment for bigamy for entering into a marriage by choice after she fled her forced marriage to her master. The ECOWAS court ordered the government to pay $20,000 in damages to the victim. In March 2009, the government paid the victim the ordered restitution and secured the conviction of the victim’s former master, Naroua, who was given a sentence of one year in prison and a fine of $1,000. Naroua, however, has yet to be located and detained. The status of seven women who reportedly remained enslaved by Naroua after the victim’s escape is unknown. The whereabouts of the victim’s two children, who were enslaved by Naroua as well, is also unknown. NGOs reported to officials that in 2008, four Nigerien girls were sold to Nigerian businessmen in Zaria, on the border of Nigeria and Niger, but the government has failed to respond to these reports. The government reported that it was dismantling trafficking networks in the Konni region.

The Government of Niger demonstrated slightly decreased efforts to provide care to child trafficking victims and some increased efforts to assist victims of traditional slavery practices. Due to lack of resources, the government did not operate its own victim shelter, but refers child trafficking victims to NGOs for assistance. While the government lacked a formal system for identification and referral of trafficking victims, authorities referred trafficking victims to NGOs for care on an ad hoc basis. In Agadez, local authorities assisted UNICEF in rescuing 37 child trafficking victims and referring them to NGOs for care. At a government-operated but donor-funded victim transit center in Makalondi, police assisted with the rescue, rehabilitation, and return of 44 child victims. In February 2009, Nigerien and Togolese law enforcement officials conducted a joint investigation resulting in the rescue of a Nigerien girl who had been abducted and trafficked to Togo in 1998, when she was 14 years old.

A 2007 government plan to combat child exploitation by religious instructors in Islamic schools has not been implemented due to lack of funding. During the year, government officials assisted a local NGO in rescuing 40 individuals subjected to traditional slavery practices by assisting with the purchase of land and animals for the former slaves. The officials also housed the NGO delegation and educated the community about slavery. During the year, the Ministry of Education paid the salaries for five teachers working at NGO-funded schools for children of former slaves. The government encouraged victims to report their traffickers to law enforcement officials and interviewed them for evidence for investigations and prosecutions. The Ministry of the Interior continued to operate a program to welcome and provide temporary shelter -- for about one week -- to repatriated Nigeriens, some of whom may be trafficking victims. While ministry officials interviewed these citizens to assist with their reintegration, they did not attempt to identify trafficking victims among them. The government did not provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they face hardship or retribution. Victims were not inappropriately incarcerated or fined for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked.

The Government of Niger made solid prevention efforts through campaigns to educate the public about child trafficking during the reporting period. State television broadcast a donor-funded anti-trafficking skit repeatedly in French and local languages. Niger’s First Lady and the Minister of Justice made public appearances denouncing traditional slavery and child trafficking. In July 2008, the Minister of Women’s Promotion and Children’s Protection chaired a regional training workshop for journalists from nine countries on child trafficking and labor. In December 2008, Niger’s Youth Parliament held its second ordinary session which focused on child rights, including child trafficking. In July 2008, the National Commission on Human Rights and Fundamental Liberties released a six-month study on forced labor, child labor, and slavery. In cooperation with UNICEF, the Nigerien government helped establish regional committees to prevent child trafficking. The government identified committee members and leaders and provided them with education and training. A 2006 draft anti-trafficking agreement between Niger and Nigeria remained unsigned. Niger’s 2006 draft national action plan to combat trafficking and draft plan to combat forced labor linked to slavery has yet to be adopted. The Nigerien government did not take measures to reduce demand for commercial sex acts during the year. Nigerien troops deployed abroad as part of international peacekeeping missions did not receive human trafficking awareness training prior to deployment. In February 2009, however, the government revised the bylaws of its armed forces to prohibit such troops from engaging in or facilitating trafficking.