West and Central Africa

Countries and territories covered: Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo

1. Status of the legislation on trafficking in persons

The legislative situation in West and Central Africa is slightly different compared to that in the other three African regions, and the 16 countries in this region considered in this report can be grouped by the type of trafficking in persons legislation they have adopted. The first group included the five Anglophone countries plus Senegal and Mauritania, all of which have adopted a specific provision criminalizing at least trafficking for sexual exploitation and for forced labour, with no restrictions regarding the age or gender of the victim.

The introduction of an offence of trafficking in persons - or child trafficking - in national legislation is recent in most of the region. Mauritania and Nigeria have had a specific offence of trafficking in persons in place since 2003, and Mali has had a child trafficking provision in its criminal code since 2001, but the other nine countries only adopted a provision on child or human trafficking in 2005 or later. Authorities in Chad, Cote d'Ivoire and Niger are currently considering draft anti-trafficking laws.

At the regional level, the Member States of West and Central Africa are parties either to the 2001 ECOWAS Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons especially Women and Children (extended until 2011), or to the ECOWAS/ECCAS Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons especially Women and Children and to the 2006 Multilateral Cooperation Agreement to Combat Trafficking in Persons in West and Central Africa.

2. The criminal justice response to trafficking in persons

Criminal justice statistics are generally scarce in this region mainly due to the recent nature of legislation. No clear regional trends emerge from the available data, although some countries have seen an increase in investigations, and others have observed stable or decreasing trends.

Countries where information on investigations, prosecutions and convictions was available indicate that convictions were low compared to the number of persons investigated. During the period under consideration, Nigeria and Ghana were the only countries to record convictions among those criminalizing all forms of trafficking in persons. Of the countries that only criminalize child trafficking, Benin, Burkina Faso and Togo reported convictions. Available criminal justice statistics on the number of traffickers and victims are generally low compared to the numbers identified by national authorities or sheltered by NGOs.

3. Trafficking in persons patterns

Perpetrators of trafficking were frequently men, but women also were often the focus of investigations for trafficking in persons or child trafficking. Women investigated for trafficking outnumbered men in Liberia and Nigeria. Traffickers were usually nationals or from other countries in the region.

Many of the countries in the region reported hundreds or even thousands of victims of trafficking per year during the reporting period. The great difference between the number of victims and the low number of traffickers is a specific pattern in this region.

Available information on victim profiles indicates that most are children. To a great degree, this can be explained by the fact that the legislative provisions in many countries only cover child trafficking, but child victims are still predominant even in countries where the law addresses forms of trafficking that target adults. In Nigeria, the incidence of adult women identified as trafficking victims is slightly higher compared to child victims. Although both boys and girls are frequent victims, boys are identified more often in some countries, such as Mali and Mauritania, while girls are detected more frequently in other countries.

Information about the type of exploitation suffered by victims was not always reported. When information was available, forced labour emerged as a prominent form of trafficking in a large part of the region. Victims - mostly children − trafficked for forced labour might have been involved in activities such as slavery, domestic servitude, begging and camel jockeying (often Mauritanian victims trafficked to the Middle East). Sexual exploitation also was detected in many countries of the region, and trafficking for organ removal, ritual killings and mystic practices was detected in Chad and Liberia.

 

Events

Traffickers pocket substantial criminal proceeds from various forms of victim exploitation. In Western and Central Africa, victims are predominantly women and children who live in the harshest conditions of vulnerability. Armed conflict, socio-political instability, bad governance, environmental stress and disaster drastically increase the vulnerability of children to trafficking for a variety of exploitative purposes, including their recruitment and abuse in situations of armed conflict and war.

When looking at the entire region, three major trafficking trends, two of which are transnational, can be identified:

• Children who are trafficked within the region for the purpose of labour exploitation

• Women and girls who are trafficked both within and out of the region for sexual exploitation

• Large-scale internal trafficking, which takes place within the borders of a State

Several countries in the region are both origin and destination countries for women and girls who are trafficked for sexual exploitation. The main destinations outside the region are Western Europe, Southern Africa and the Middle East.

Patterns of internal trafficking within the region often remain hidden behind the issues of transnational trafficking. Conflict, poverty, and HIV/AIDS leave adults and especially children vulnerable to trafficking within their own national borders. General trends within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) include trafficking from rural to urban and industrial areas for employment and sexual exploitation. Larger farming and fishing communities in fertile lands and along coastal areas also receive large numbers of internally trafficked persons for labour.

Côte d'Ivoire

What? UN.GIFT regional event for Western and Central Africa

Where? Côte d'Ivoire

When? 26-28 November 2007

Who? High-level representatives from countries in Western and Central Africa

Why? To formulate measures for the establishment of harmonized legal frameworks against the phenomenon of child trafficking for their exploitation in armed conflicts.

Regional meeting report (PDF)