The Government of Cabo Verde does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated significant efforts during the reporting period by initiating six sex trafficking investigations under the 2015 anti-trafficking penal code amendments and convicting one trafficker to four years imprisonment on slavery charges, its first conviction for trafficking or slavery offenses in three years. In addition, it provided some in-kind support to NGOs that assisted trafficking victims and designated the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) as the lead entity for inter-ministerial anti-trafficking efforts. However, the government did not demonstrate increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period. While the government provided security to some identified trafficking victims, it relied on NGOs and international organizations to coordinate and fund all victim shelter and repatriation. Law enforcement did not investigate any individuals in connection with the 18 reports of potential child forced labor in the informal sector during the reporting period, and despite an identified need to train law enforcement and the judiciary on trafficking victim identification and the 2015 anti-trafficking penal code amendments, the government did not provide any training. Therefore, Cabo Verde remained on Tier 2 Watch List for the second consecutive year.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CABO VERDE
Using the penal code amendments, vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses and convict and punish traffickers; develop and institute standardized trafficking victim identification procedures—including for adults and victims among vulnerable populations, such as child domestic workers—and a mechanism to refer victims to institutions that provide care, and train law enforcement, judicial personnel, and hotline operators on such procedures; train law enforcement and judiciary officials on the 2015 anti-trafficking amendments; in collaboration with NGOs and government agencies that provide victim care, allocate funding or in-kind assistance to support shelter and psycho-social care for all victims, and collect data on such efforts; investigate indicators of child forced labor in the informal sector, including in domestic service and street vending; educate law enforcement that children younger than 18 exploited in prostitution with a third party is sex trafficking, and robustly investigate such cases, especially in high-tourist areas; amend article 149 of the penal code to criminalize committing such acts against children 16-18 years old; increase efforts to raise public awareness of human trafficking, including child sex trafficking and domestic servitude; increase collaboration with foreign governments on cases of transnational trafficking; draft and implement a national action plan on trafficking in persons; allocate resources to the MOJ to facilitate coordinated government anti-trafficking action; and develop a system to compile and share comprehensive data on anti-trafficking law enforcement and victim identification efforts among agencies.
The government increased anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, but gaps remained. The penal code appears to prohibit all forms of trafficking in persons. Article 271 criminalizes slavery and prescribes sufficiently stringent penalties of six to 12 years imprisonment. Article 271-A makes it a crime to use force, fraud, or coercion for the purposes of sexual or labor exploitation and prescribes penalties of four to 10 years imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. When the victim is a minor—an undefined term which elsewhere in the criminal code is defined at 16—the penalty increases to six to 12 years imprisonment. As the penal code does not define labor exploitation, it could be implemented such that labor exploitation short of forced labor would be considered human trafficking. In addition to article 271-A, article 148 of the criminal code outlaws the promotion, encouragement, or facilitation of prostitution and sexual acts with minors younger than 16 years of age or persons suffering from mental incapacity with penalties of four to 10 years imprisonment, or two to six years imprisonment if the victim is between ages 16 and 18. Article 149 of the penal code punishes those who entice, transport, host, or receive children younger than 16 years of age or promote the conditions for sexual acts or prostitution in a foreign country with two to eight years imprisonment; however, this does not prohibit such acts with children 16-18 years old, which is inconsistent with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol. The Law of Foreigners prohibits knowingly subjecting an undocumented migrant worker to trafficking and prescribes penalties of two to six years imprisonment. Article 271-A also prescribes penalties for those who have knowledge of trafficking crimes or use the services of trafficking victims (one to five years imprisonment) and those who retain, conceal, damage, or destroy trafficking victims’ identity documents (up to three years imprisonment).
The government investigated seven sex trafficking cases and prosecuted and convicted one trafficker, compared with one sex trafficking investigation and no prosecutions or convictions in the previous reporting period. After completing the investigation initiated the previous reporting period, the government convicted and sentenced a Nigerian trafficker to four years imprisonment for slavery crimes for subjecting two Nigerian women to sex trafficking on Boa Vista Island. The six investigations initiated during the reporting period remained pending and involved female foreigners from ECOWAS countries exploited in sex trafficking. Officials admitted law enforcement and judges lacked understanding of trafficking crimes and the 2015 anti-trafficking amendments, hampering their ability to identify, investigate, and prosecute trafficking cases; nonetheless, the government did not provide any training to such officials. Insufficient staffing and a lack of resources confined the judicial police’s presence to four of the country’s nine inhabited islands, impeding the government’s efforts to identify victims, investigate crimes, collect data, and conduct awareness-raising campaigns. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses. Despite ongoing transnational trafficking investigations, the government did not report collaborating with foreign governments on anti-trafficking investigations.
The government increased efforts to identify trafficking victims, but maintained limited protection efforts. It identified at least six female sex trafficking victims from ECOWAS countries and 18 potential child forced labor victims, compared with two victims identified in the previous reporting period. The government did not have formal procedures for law enforcement or social workers to identify trafficking victims, nor did it have a formal mechanism to refer trafficking victims to care. Authorities lacked training to differentiate trafficking victims from smuggling victims and victims of child abuse from child forced labor and child sex trafficking, which resulted in incomplete and inconsistent data on the number of trafficking victims identified and referred to care. Border police had written procedures to proactively identify trafficking victims and people vulnerable to trafficking, although officials neither received training on such procedures nor implemented them uniformly during the reporting period.
An international organization provided temporary shelter to two identified victims and funded their subsequent repatriation; the government provided security for the shelter and issued laissez-passer cards to facilitate repatriation. Neither the government nor NGOs reported providing shelter, psycho-social, or repatriation assistance to the other identified victims. There were no shelters or services specifically for trafficking victims, but government-funded agencies provided emergency services, temporary shelter, and psycho-social care to at-risk populations and female and child victims of crime that trafficking victims could access. The government’s Cabo Verdean Institute for Children and Adolescents (ICCA) operated a national network to prevent and provide assistance to victims of child sexual abuse, which could be used to coordinate the referral of child trafficking victims to care and support throughout court processes. It operated two shelters that provided temporary care for child victims of sexual abuse, violence, and abandonment, and maintained five protection and social reinsertion centers, which provided services for children experiencing long-term trauma, including trafficking. ICCA removed 18 child potential forced labor victims from exploitative conditions in domestic service and street vending and referred them to its shelters. The government did not report assisting any other potential or identified trafficking victims in these shelters during the reporting period, but due to the lack of formal procedures to identify victims, it is possible that some unidentified trafficking victims received care in these shelters.
Law enforcement conducted sex trafficking victim interviews in collaboration with psychologists and, in cases of children, the victims’ parents, to provide a comfortable and safe environment. In addition, the government could expedite the investigation and prosecution of cases involving sexual violence, including sex trafficking. Cabo Verdean law does not provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution. There is no mechanism by which a victim could obtain restitution from the government or file a civil suit against a trafficker. There were no reports officials fined, detained, or penalized trafficking victims for unlawful acts committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking; due to the lack of formal victim identification procedures, however, some victims may have remained unidentified in the law enforcement system.
The government maintained modest prevention efforts. The government designated MOJ as the lead for anti-trafficking efforts, although it was not an effective coordinator during the reporting period, which obstructed communication on trafficking issues and hampered the government’s ability to adequately address trafficking. ICCA, in partnership with an international organization, drafted, approved, and funded a 2017-2019 national plan to combat child sexual violence, which included actions to address child sex trafficking. In addition, ICCA held six conferences and workshops across four islands to sensitize stakeholders to the list and laws against dangerous work for children and strengthen child protection partnerships. MOJ, in partnership with an international organization, began drafting a trafficking-specific action plan. The national committees to prevent child sexual exploitation and to prevent and eliminate child labor continued awareness campaigns to address child labor and child sexual violence. After ICCA received allegations of the worst forms of child labor in domestic work and street vending and removed the 18 children involved, neither labor inspectors nor law enforcement officials launched any investigations; labor inspectors do not have jurisdiction over the informal sector, although law enforcement does. The government continued to operate six day centers through its Nos Kaza project, which aimed to reduce the vulnerability of street children to forced labor and sexual abuse, including sex trafficking. It also continued to operate a hotline for reporting cases of child abuse, including sexual exploitation and child labor. The hotline did not receive any reports of trafficking during the reporting period, although hotline workers did not receive training to differentiate trafficking from similar crimes, such as child labor or abuse. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor or commercial sex acts. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.
As reported over the past five years, Cabo Verde is primarily a source country for children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking within the country and a destination for women in forced prostitution; to a lesser extent, it is a source country for children subjected to forced labor in Guinea-Conkary and for men subjected to forced labor in Europe. Boys and girls, some of whom may be foreign nationals, are exploited in sex trafficking in Santa Maria, Praia, and Mindelo, sometimes through child sex tourism. Increasing numbers of West African women have been identified in forced prostitution, including on Boa Vista and Sal Islands and sometimes through sex tourism. Children in domestic service often work long hours and at times experience physical and sexual abuse—indicators of forced labor. Cabo Verdean children engaged in begging, street vending, car washing, garbage picking, and agriculture are vulnerable to trafficking. Children living in impoverished neighborhoods with little state presence are also at risk, especially for sex trafficking. In previous years, there were reports Nigerian traffickers may have forced Cabo Verdean and Brazilian females to transport drugs between the two countries. During the reporting period, a Cabo Verdean man with an EU passport was forced to sell drugs in Luxembourg. West African migrants may transit the archipelago en route to situations of exploitation in Europe. Some adult migrants from China and ECOWAS countries may receive low wages, work without contracts, and have irregular status, rendering them vulnerable to forced labor and sex trafficking.