Djibouti is a transit and, to a lesser extent, a source and destination country for men, women, and children who are subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically conditions of forced labor and forced prostitution. There is little verifiable data on the human trafficking situation in Djibouti. Large numbers of voluntary economic migrants from Ethiopia and Somalia pass illegally through Djibouti en route to Yemen and other locations in the Middle East; among this group, a small number of women and girls may fall victim to involuntary domestic servitude or forced commercial sexual exploitation after reaching Djibouti City or the Ethiopia-Djibouti trucking corridor. An unknown number of migrants – men, women, and children – are subjected to conditions of forced labor and forced prostitution after reaching Yemen and other destinations in the Middle East. Djibouti’s large refugee population – comprised of Somalis, Ethiopians, and Eritreans – as well as foreign street children remain vulnerable to various forms of exploitation within the country, including human trafficking. Older street children reportedly act, at times, as pimps for younger children. A small number of girls from impoverished Djiboutian families may engage in prostitution with the encouragement of family members or other persons in prostitution. Members of foreign militaries stationed in Djibouti contribute to the demand for women and girls in prostitution, including trafficking victims.
The Government of Djibouti does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Senior officials have identified combating human trafficking as an important priority, sought increased partnerships with other governments and international organizations over the past year, and demonstrated a growing awareness of the distinction between human trafficking and smuggling. The government, however, remains unable to effectively implement all of the protection, prevention, and prosecution components of its anti-trafficking law given its lack of resources. Addressing migrant smuggling and daunting refugee flows remained a main concern, diverting government attention and limited law enforcement resources that might otherwise have been devoted to detecting and responding to forms of trafficking occurring within the country’s borders. It is believed, however, that the government’s efforts to reduce migrant smuggling to Yemen will ultimately serve to reduce the overall number of such migrants who are vulnerable to situations of human trafficking in the Middle East.
Recommendations for Djibouti: Launch a nationwide campaign to educate government officials and the general public on human trafficking, highlighting the appropriate treatment of domestic workers under Djiboutian law; work with judges, prosecutors, and police to clarify the difference between cases of human trafficking and alien smuggling, particularly regarding the improper application in courtrooms of Law 210 to cases of alien smuggling; form partnerships with local religious leaders, building their capacity and encouraging them to educate their congregations about trafficking; enforce the anti-trafficking statute through investigation and prosecution of trafficking offenders who facilitate child prostitution, abuse domestic workers, or perpetrate other forced labor offenses; institute a module on human trafficking as a standard part of the mandatory training program for new police and border guards; establish policies and procedures for government officials to proactively identify and interview potential trafficking victims and transfer them to the care, when appropriate, of local organizations; ensure police and relevant social welfare workers receive clear instructions regarding their specific roles and responsibilities in combating trafficking and protecting victims; and establish mechanisms for providing protective services to victims, possibly through the forging of partnerships with or civil society or international organizations.
The government made significant efforts to bring migrant smugglers to justice during the reporting period, but failed to take law enforcement action against forced labor or sex trafficking offenders. Law 210, “Regarding the Fight Against Human Trafficking,” enacted in December 2007, prohibits both labor and sex trafficking. The law also provides for the protection of victims regardless of ethnicity, gender, or nationality, and prescribes penalties of up to 30 years’ imprisonment for convicted trafficking offenders. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. During the reporting period, the Djiboutian military regularly buried the remains of shipwrecked migrants who drowned after failed smuggling attempts. The smugglers of these migrants, when captured by Djiboutian authorities, were transferred to the judicial system for prosecution. The Ministry of Justice reported its use of Law 210 in the past year to prosecute, convict, and sentenced well over 100 illegal migrant smugglers and their accomplices, including Djiboutian citizens. It is unclear whether any of these cases involved human trafficking. The Ministry of Justice reported no investigations or prosecutions of offenses involving forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation. The Brigade des Moeurs (Vice Police) conducted regular nighttime sweeps of the capital’s bars and streets and preventatively