Human trafficking refers to the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of people through force, fraud, coercion or deception, with the aim of exploiting them for profit,” according to Anti-Slavery International. According to the U.S. Department of State, Côte d’Ivoire, a country situated on the southern coast of West Africa, ranks as a Tier 2 country, meaning it “does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so” as set out in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act or TVPA. However, Côte d’Ivoire has made progress over the years, upgrading to Tier 2 in the 2017 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report.
The country initially ranked as a Tier 2 Watch List country, which encompasses countries that are making an effort to comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards but fail to provide evidence of this and note an increasing number of victims. Through continued efforts, human trafficking in Côte d’Ivoire can significantly improve.
The Current State of Human Trafficking in Côte d’Ivoire
According to the TIP 2022 report, the Côte d’Ivoire government has developed “a draft national referral mechanism (NRM) and provided anti-trafficking training to law enforcement and judicial officials.” Paule Marlène Dogbo, the director of the cabinet of the Ministry of Solidarity and the Fight against Poverty, says the new referral mechanism will allow the Ivory Coast to move up to Tier 1 by conforming to the TVPA.
The government also coordinated the creation of a National Committee for the Fight against Trafficking in Persons (CNTLP), with an inauguration for its headquarters held in October 2022 in Cocody-Angré.
According to the 2022 TIP report, the Ivorian government identified 1,190 trafficking victims, in contrast to the identification of 302 trafficking victims the year prior. Children accounted for most victims. Additionally, out of the total number of victims, sex trafficking victims equaled 437 people and forced labor victims amounted to 753 people.
Despite these positive efforts, the country does not fully meet the TVPA’s minimum standards. Although convictions of traffickers are on the rise (43 convicted compared to 12 in the previous report), Côte d’Ivoire “did not report any investigations, prosecutions or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking crimes,” the TIP report says. This is an issue as corruption prevents the proper enforcement of the law. Some individuals have alleged that officers situated on the border take bribes to facilitate the passage of trafficking victims in Ghana and Mali.
“Law enforcement lacked the specialized training and resources to investigate trafficking cases and identify victims,” the report highlights. Furthermore, the CNLTP, which stands as the body for leading anti-trafficking efforts, “did not meet or coordinate anti-trafficking activities and the government did not allocate a dedicated budget for the CNLTP’s operations” for the third year in a row. Additionally, “shelter and services, especially for adult victims, remained inadequate,” the report says.
Action to Address Child Labor and Child Trafficking
In terms of child labor in general and child labor arising from trafficking, Côte d’Ivoire has made significant progress. Côte d’Ivoire is the main producer of cocoa on the international market, representing 45% of all production. Unfortunately, the cocoa agricultural sector relies on child labor to achieve high levels of production.
Because of domestic and international pressure, the Ivorian government took action and passed several laws to prevent child trafficking. For example, in 2010, it passed the prohibition of child trafficking and the worst forms of child labor laws, the Guardian reports.
The Ivorian government made school attendance both free and mandatory for children between 6 and 16, which relieved some of the burdens on parents that had no choice but to send their children off to work as they could not afford school. School attendance in cocoa-producing regions increased from 58% to 80% from 2008 to 2019.
To combat human trafficking in Côte d’Ivoire, in 2020, the government also established six police units dedicated to reducing child labor and trafficking. The units patrol the cocoa plantations and randomly search vehicles in cocoa-growing regions. According to the government, in total, authorities have arrested more than 1,000 traffickers since 2012.
The Centre for Victims of Child Labor opened its doors in 2018 and aims to reunite children with their families, whether abroad or locally, and get the children back into the education system. Because of the trauma children have faced, a nurse and psychologist from part of the organization’s staff.
Finally, in 2021, for the first time, an Ivorian court sentenced 10 people found guilty of child trafficking in cocoa plantations to 10 years in jail.
Although improvements are visible, increased funding and resources will help strengthen anti-trafficking efforts in the country. With continued positive efforts and adequate reporting, Côte d’Ivoire can move closer to its goal of ranking as a fully compliant Tier 1 country.
– Raphaelle Copin