Human trafficking is an issue that plagues most of the world, but in some nations, it is more prevalent than in others. The archipelago of Comoros – located off of Africa’s east coast in the Indian Ocean – is a Tier 2 Watch List country making its citizens some of the most at-risk for human trafficking.
The Human Trafficking Institute’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report) ranks countries in three tiers – the third being the worst. Tier 2 means that the respective government does not fully comply with the minimum standards for combating trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. However, the designation “Watch List” means that the number of human trafficking victims in Comoros is increasing or there is no evidence of heightened efforts from the previous year.
Most Comorian children ages 3 to 7 – and some as old as 14 – often study at unofficial neighborhood schools directed by private instructors, which makes them vulnerable to exploitation as domestic servants or field hands. Without formal schools to educate, children are often left in the hands of the corrupt.
The estimated 3,000 to 4,000 unaccompanied children on the island of Mayotte are especially susceptible to domestic servitude and sex trafficking. Due to a corrupt government, inadequate border control and international criminal networks, there is a high risk for transnational and domestic human trafficking in Comoros.
The 2022 TIP Report found that during the reporting period, the Comorian government investigated four trafficking cases – three of which were for forced labor, and one involving both labor and sex trafficking.
To combat human trafficking in Comoros, the government partnered with local NGOs and international organizations to provide support for the eight victims identified in 2022. MAEECHA is an NGO located in Moroni, Comoros that works to protect minors in isolation and much more. Between 2014 and 2015, MAEECHA identified 514 minors in a situation of vulnerability – 220, or 43%, were in isolation. About 68% of these children were under 12 years old.
The U.S. established diplomatic relations with Comoros in 1977 and has maintained its presence in some capacity through a strong bilateral relationship with the U.S. ambassador in Madagascar. Additionally, the Peace Corps re-established itself in the island nation in 2015.
In 2022, Comoros upgraded from Tier 3 to Tier 2 Watch List based on achievements, including investigating trafficking crimes for the first time since 2014 and initiating the country’s first trafficking prosecution. Though this may seem insignificant, a country as impoverished as Comoros taking these steps could mean major progress in the coming years.
That being said, when a country is Tier 3, they may no longer be subject to foreign aid from the United States, so Comoros receiving international support is conditional upon it remaining in Tier 1 or 2.
Progress for Comoros
The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reports that local community engagement is a recent initiative from Comoros in the war against trafficking. With the support of UNODC through informational workshops, parliamentarians and Islamic leaders have been working to spread awareness of human trafficking. With this type of movement underway – and hopefully, more to come – there is optimism that progress will occur in ensuring the safety of Comorians, especially the youth.
The U.S. Department of State financed the previously mentioned workshops as a part of the UNODC Enhancing Criminal Justice Responses to Trafficking in Person in Eastern Africa project. The main focus of the project is aligning different regions’ national legislation on TIP.
Although Comoros is making progress as a nation with regard to human trafficking, there is much more that needs to occur for all its citizens to have safety and everything they need.
– Stella Tirone