Equatorial Guinea is principally a destination for children subjected to conditions of forced labor. Children are recruited and transported from nearby countries – primarily Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, and Gabon – and forced to work as domestic servants, market laborers, ambulant vendors, and launderers. The majority of victims are believed to be exploited in Malabo and Bata where a burgeoning oil industry creates demand for cheap labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Women from Cameroon, Benin, other neighboring countries, and China may be recruited for work in Equatorial Guinea but subsequently subjected to forced labor or forced prostitution.
The Government of Equatorial Guinea does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and has been placed on Tier 2 Watch List for the last four consecutive years. Therefore, pursuant to Section 107 of the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, Equatorial Guinea is deemed not to be making significant efforts to comply with the minimum standards and is placed on Tier 3. Despite limited law enforcement action against suspected human smugglers and traffickers, including complicit public officials, the government has made no tangible efforts to provide victims of trafficking with the protective services mandated in its 2004 anti-trafficking law. Church-run orphanages continued to provide all services for victims of trafficking in the country without government support or funding. The government routinely deported illegal immigrants without attempting to determine whether they were victims of trafficking or referring them to assistance services. Prevention efforts have decreased, as the government did not hold any public awareness campaigns and its interagency commission on human trafficking took little, if any, action. The government’s response to human trafficking has been inadequate, particularly given the government’s substantial financial resources.
Recommendations for Equatorial Guinea: Increase the use of the country’s 2004 anti-trafficking law to prosecute and convict trafficking offenders and complicit officials; develop formal procedures to identify trafficking victims among child laborers, illegal immigrants, and women and girls in prostitution; dedicate funding for the sheltering and protection of trafficking victims and develop a formal system to refer victims to such care; train law enforcement officials, immigration officials, and social workers in the use of identification and referral procedures; cease summary deportation of foreign women and children from Equatoguinean territory without first screening for victimization and, if appropriate, providing them with care and safe, voluntary repatriation; research the extent and nature of the problem of human trafficking; and launch a nationwide anti-trafficking public awareness campaign.
The Government of Equatorial Guinea demonstrated modest anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. Its 2004 “Law on the Smuggling of Migrants and Trafficking in Persons” prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes penalties of 10 to 15 years’ imprisonment, punishments which are sufficiently stringent. During the reporting period, the government used this law for the first time to prosecute and reach convictions in at least one case, though it did not appear to involve human trafficking. The case involved seven adults – some of whom had identification from Mali and Burkina Faso – found dead in Bata. In June 2010, the Superior Civil Court in Bata convicted an army officer, a Malian smuggler, and their driver of human trafficking, sentencing them to 15 years’ imprisonment and a fine of $33,680. The army officer and one of the accomplices absconded and were tried in absentia as they remain fugitives; the third offender is serving his prison sentence.
In November, the government co-sponsored with IOM two one-week anti-trafficking training workshops, one in Malabo and one in Bata. Several ministers and vice ministers attended the opening sessions of the trainings, which covered procedural guidelines for victim identification, assistance, return, and reintegration. In total, 65 people received training; this included 15 law enforcement officers and officials from the Justice, Social Affairs, and Foreign Affairs ministries. The government also provided training for 28 officials on the identification and care of trafficking victims through a government-funded contract with a foreign security training company.
The Government of Equatorial Guinea failed to demonstrate effective measures to protect trafficking victims during the reporting period. Although the 2004 anti-trafficking law mandates the government’s provision of legal assistance, psychological and medical care, counseling, lodging, food, access to education, training, and employment opportunities to trafficking victims, the government failed to provide any of these protective services. The Ministry of Social Affairs’ 2009 proposal to the government’s Social Development Fund for the establishment of a network of shelters for women and children, including child trafficking victims has not yet been funded. The provision of care for Equatoguinean child trafficking victims continued to be provided entirely by church-run orphanages; foreign children were usually deported summarily. There were no shelters or other types of protective services in Equatorial Guinea for adult trafficking victims. Law enforcement authorities did not employ procedures to proactively identify victims of trafficking and did not make efforts – in either a systematic or an ad hoc way – to refer victims to organizations that provide short- or long-term care. The absence of a proactive victim identification process, including procedures for screening deportees, impaired the government’s ability to provide care or assistance to foreign trafficking victims; the government detained foreign nationals, including potential trafficking victims, at police stations for periods of several days to several months, and seldom notified the victims’ embassies of their detention or deportation. The overwhelming majority of those detained were young men, though children and women were sometimes detained and deported. The government did not provide trafficking victims with temporary or permanent resident status, or any other relief from deportation. Officials did not appear to fine victims, but frequently confiscated their possessions and money.
The Government of Equatorial Guinea decreased its efforts to prevent trafficking during the reporting period. It did not continue its prior funding for or launch new anti-trafficking informational or educational campaigns for the general public. The effectiveness of the Interagency Commission for Trafficking in Persons, directed by the Prime Minister’s Office and chaired by the Ministry of Justice, is limited by the lack of administrative infrastructure in the country, and did not meet during the year. The National Action Plan, produced following passage of the 2004 law, has not been implemented and is out of date. In February 2010, the government consulted with UNICEF and UNDP to revise this plan to include an initial study on the extent of child trafficking and begin work on a pilot shelter in Malabo, but did not finalize or implement the plan. In March 2010, the government created the National Center for Official Documents and, in October 2010, tasked this agency with updating all national identity and immigration documents as a part of the government’s ongoing effort to regulate immigration. In 2010, the Ministry of Labor conducted numerous workplace inspections to verify adherence to labor laws in regard to pay, benefits, and working conditions; when violations were found, the government required employers to correct the problem, pay fines, and pay reparations to the employees if appropriate. The government did not undertake any discernible measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts during the year.