Trafficking in Persons Report
2012 Trafficking in Persons Report on Cameroon
Cameroon (Tier 2)
Cameroon is a source, transit, and destination country for children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking, and a country of origin for women subjected to forced labor and forced prostitution. Trafficking operations usually target two or three children, often when rural parents hand over their children to a middleman promising an education or a better life in the city. Traffickers are increasingly resorting to kidnapping their victims, however, as heightened public awareness about trafficking has led to parents being less willing to give their children to these middlemen. Cameroonian children from the country's 10 regions involuntarily work in domestic service, street vending, mining, and agriculture, including on tea and cocoa plantations. Cameroonian children are also exploited in prostitution within the country. After parents gave their children to Koranic teachers in Maroua and elsewhere in the Far North Region, some children were subjected to forced labor. Reports indicate the existence of hereditary servitude in northern chiefdoms. Cameroonian women are lured to Europe by fraudulent internet marriage proposals or offers of domestic work, and subsequently become victims of forced labor or forced prostitution in Switzerland and France, with smaller numbers of cases in Russia. During the year, Cameroonian trafficking victims were also identified in Denmark, Cyprus, Spain, Germany, Norway, and several West and Central African countries.
The Government of Cameroon does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the reporting year, the government passed a comprehensive anti-trafficking law that criminalizes the trafficking of both adults and children. It convicted two traffickers, sentencing each to 20 years' imprisonment. The government also opened investigations into allegations that a soldier from the 62nd Infantry Motorized Battalion based in Nkambe, Northwest Region, and customs officers were engaged in human trafficking. In addition, the government made progress in ensuring that trafficking victims received access to protective services and took significant steps to prevent human trafficking. It did not, however, take action against law enforcement officials who took bribes from traffickers, or put in place a standardized mechanism to refer victims to protective services.
Recommendations for Cameroon: Increase efforts to prosecute and convict trafficking offenders, including complicit officials; continue to educate police, judges, lawyers, and social workers about the new law against human trafficking; develop standardized procedures for referring trafficking victims to NGO care services, and socialize these mechanisms among government officials and the NGO community; develop formal procedures to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable groups and refer them to care centers; and address cases of hereditary servitude in the northern regions.
The Government of Cameroon demonstrated notable improvements in anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts over the last year, and passed comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation, repealing the 2005 anti-trafficking law that criminalized the trafficking of children, but not adults. The 2011 Law Project Relating to the Fight Against Trafficking in Persons and Slavery prohibits all forms of trafficking in persons and under Section 4 prescribes a penalty of 10 to 20 years' imprisonment, penalties that are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape. Section 5 prescribes penalties ranging from 15 to 20 years' imprisonment when the trafficking victim is 15 years of age or younger, when violent pretexts are used to coerce the victim, or if the victim sustained serious injuries as a result of trafficking. Section 3 notes penalties for debt bondage, which range from five to 10 years' imprisonment.
During the reporting period, the government conducted five trafficking investigations and obtained two convictions. This is a significant improvement over the previous reporting period, in which the government was unable to provide data on its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. A police officer who had attended a March 2011 NGO-led training on conducting human trafficking investigations subsequently identified two suspected child traffickers responsible for forcing 98 young children to beg on the streets of Maroua. In September 2011, the government convicted and sentenced both perpetrators to 20 years' imprisonment, and all 98 children were safely returned to their families. Two of the five investigations centered on government officials' alleged participation in trafficking crimes. In one case, three children drowned in April 2011 when a child trafficker and his accomplice, a customs officer, attempted to take them to Nigeria by crossing a river; investigations against both suspects were ongoing as of the end of the reporting period. The government again made no efforts to investigate traditional leaders in the northern regions suspected of keeping people in conditions of hereditary servitude during the reporting period. The government is not known to have taken action to address allegations that a Cameroonian diplomat subjected his domestic worker to servitude in the United States. The National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms, a government body, continued to educate law enforcement officers and magistrates on Cameroonian law and the prosecution of human trafficking. During the reporting period, approximately 40 officials received this training.
The Cameroonian government demonstrated modest efforts to ensure that victims of trafficking received access to protective services during the year. The government continued to provide some direct assistance to child victims, including shelter and medical care. The government identified 135 victims during the reporting period, three of whom were referred to a Ministry of Social Affairs-run care facility; the other 132 victims received assistance from NGOs. This is a substantial increase in the number of victims identified compared to the nine victims identified in the previous reporting period. It is unclear how much funding the government devoted to victim care during 2011, and despite an increase in the number of victims identified, the government has yet to institute a standardized, reliable referral mechanism to refer victims to NGO services. Government personnel did not demonstrate proactive efforts to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable groups, such as street children, women in prostitution, and illegal migrants. Although the government stated that it would provide temporary resident status or legal alternatives to the removal of foreign trafficking victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution, there were no instances in which the government provided such relief during the reporting period. The government continued to renovate a number of its care centers for abandoned children, street children, and child trafficking victims, but it did not report the number of trafficking victims cared for in these centers. In April 2011, Cameroonian authorities deported two Nigerian boys who were potential trafficking victims following a 14-month prison term for not possessing proper immigration papers to reside in Cameroon. In some instances, the government encouraged victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking. Victims may file suits or seek legal action against traffickers, and during the reporting period, two boys in Nkambe assisted in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers, but did not receive protective services from the government. No Cameroonian nationals were repatriated to Cameroon during the reporting period.
The Cameroonian government demonstrated continued progress in preventing human trafficking over the last year. An inter-ministerial committee - chaired by the secretary general of the prime ministers' office and comprised of over a dozen different ministries - is responsible for coordinating anti-trafficking efforts across the government. During the reporting period, the committee worked towards implementing the national anti-trafficking action plan and drafted a new, comprehensive anti-trafficking law that was passed in December 2011. In April 2011, the Ministry of Social Affairs held an event for members of the government and NGO partners on human trafficking issues and investigations. In February 2011, the Minister of Social Affairs launched a nationwide campaign against the sexual exploitation of children, which included discussions on the provisions of the anti-trafficking law against child trafficking. Also during February 2011, an NGO founded and chaired by Cameroon's First Lady signed a partnership agreement with a private organization of tourism agencies and tour operators to implement an initiative to prevent child sex tourism in Cameroon. The government continued to provide members of the Cameroonian armed forces with training on human trafficking prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions as part of an overall briefing on international humanitarian law.