[ Country-by-Country Reports ]

SOMALIA (not rated)  [Extracted from U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2009]

Somalia remains a Special Case for a seventh consecutive year due to the lack of a viable central government since 1991. Control of its geographic area is divided among the self-declared independent Republic of Somaliland, the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, and the remainder of the country, which is nominally under the control of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). Somalia currently lacks a national governing structure that could assume responsibility for addressing the country’s human trafficking problem. During the reporting period, the TFG remained preoccupied with the task of securing government representatives and installations from attacks by extremist elements; in this perpetual state of insecurity the government was not able to address human trafficking. In addition, the TFG currently lacks the necessary means to identify, investigate, or address systemic issues in Somalia, including those related to trafficking in persons; its capacity to address human trafficking will not significantly increase without tangible progress in reestablishing governance and stability in Somalia.

Scope and Magnitude. Information regarding trafficking in Somalia remains extremely difficult to obtain or verify; however, the Somali territory is believed to be a source, transit, and perhaps destination country for trafficked men, women, and children. In Somali society, certain groups are traditionally viewed as inferior and are marginalized; Somali Bantus and Midgaan are sometimes kept in servitude to other more powerful Somali clan members as domestics, farm laborers, and herders. During the year, the widespread use of children in fighting forces in the country was noted; the extremist groups opposed to the TFG conscripted and recruited children as young as eight years of age, including girls, for use in armed conflict, including soldiering, planting bombs, carrying out assassinations, portering, and domestic servitude. There were reports that militias loyal to the TFG or associated with members of the TFG conscripted children. Armed militias also purportedly traffic Somali women and children within the country for sexual exploitation and forced labor. Because of an inability to provide care for all family members, some Somalis willingly surrender custody of their children to people with whom they share family relations and clan linkages; some of these children may become victims of forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation. There are anecdotal reports of children engaged in prostitution within the country, but the practice is culturally proscribed and not publicly acknowledged.

Human smuggling is widespread in Somalia and there is evidence to suggest that traffickers utilize the same networks and methods as those used by smugglers. Dubious employment agencies are involved with or serve as fronts for traffickers, especially to target individuals desiring to reach the Gulf States. Somali women are trafficked to destinations in the Middle East, including Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria, as well as to South Africa, for domestic labor and, to a lesser extent, commercial sexual exploitation. Female Somali refugees residing in Yemen are trafficked by Somali men into prostitution in Aden and Lahj governorates. Somali men are trafficked into labor exploitation as herdsmen and menial workers in the Gulf States. Some Somalis transit Djibouti to reach Yemen. Somali children are reportedly trafficked to Djibouti for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor, as well as to Saudi Arabia through Yemen for forced begging. Members of the Somali diaspora use fake offers of marriage to traffic unsuspecting victims, many of whom are relatives, to Europe for commercial sexual exploitation. Ethiopian women are trafficked through Somalia to Yemen and onward to other destinations in the Middle East for forced domestic labor and sexual exploitation.

Government Efforts. The respective authorities operating in Somalia’s three regions did not make significant progress in addressing human trafficking during the reporting period. Understanding of the phenomenon of human trafficking and how it is to be identified and addressed remains low among government officials and the general population. In Somaliland, laws explicitly prohibit forced labor, involuntary servitude, and slavery, which, in addition to trafficking for sexual exploitation, may be prohibited under the most widespread interpretations of Shari’a and customary law. There are no such laws that prohibit these practices in other parts of Somalia. There is neither a unified police force in the territory to enforce these laws, nor any authoritative legal system through which trafficking offenders could be prosecuted. There were no known prosecutions of human trafficking offenses during the reporting period. Most crimes, including rape, were addressed under customary law, with penalties varying among clans; most punishments involve paying animals to victims’ clan members. There were reports that government officials may be involved in trafficking; business people involved in human smuggling and trafficking in Puntland, for instance, purportedly work with the knowledge of influential officials within the administration. In February 2009, Puntland’s newly elected president, accompanied by police and other officials, raided Marero village, a major hub for human smuggling and trafficking. No arrests were made.