Bangui – On 1-2 June, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Government of Central African Republic (CAR) organized an awareness raising session to sensitize stakeholders on trafficking in persons. Eighty community leaders in Bangui, the capital of CAR, were mobilized to understand and discuss diverse forms of the modern slavery and preventive measures that can be taken at community level.

Caught in a protracted crisis, CAR is a country of origin, transit and destination of victims of trafficking. According to an assessment conducted by IOM in 2019, the internally displaced persons (IDPs), women and girls and ethnic minorities are at higher risk against sexual and labour exploitation. Young men who were attracted by economic opportunities in mines had also been forcibly recruited in armed group. Anecdotal evidence on forced labour is increase with the lack of presence of state actors in local level.

Against this backdrop, IOM joined the force with the government to support the community leaders to be able to inform their community members on trafficking in persons.

The President of CAR, Pr. Faustin Archange Touadera, made a surprise visit to the awareness raising session. “Each of you were selected with a great responsibility to bridge the community with the Government and its partners, “said the President Pr. Faustin Archange Touadera. “I encourage you to take the ownership of the fight against trafficking in persons and be assured that the Government will support your actions”.

Despite the continuing armed conflict and socioeconomic instability, the government has been demonstrating a great devotion to the fight against trafficking in persons. With support from IOM, 55 government focal points appointed by each Minister were trained in 2020 on trafficking in persons in CAR and the actions to be taken in local and national level. The government and its partners also developed the first National Action Plan on Counter-trafficking in 2020 that presents the government’s outline of strategy and specific engagement around 4P: protection, prevention, prosecution and partnership.

The Government also partnered with IOM to conduct series of capacity building and awareness raising activities targeting journalists, social workers, labour inspectors, police officers and community members. In recognition of the commitment, the country was upgraded from Tier 2 Watchlist to Tier 2 in the U.S TIP Report last year, which demonstrates that while the government of CAR does not fully meet the minimum standards set out by the Report, it is making significant efforts to comply with those standards.

“CAR can be a model case where the effort of the government and humanitarian communities creates synergy to address trafficking in persons in crisis,” says Bakary Doumbia, Chief of Mission of IOM CAR. “We have been seeing heightened interest among humanitarian actors on the issue following the strong drive from the government, and we will use this momentum to advocate for stronger, coordinated response to trafficking in persons.”

With increasing interest and need, IOM has trained more than 40 humanitarian organizations on victim identification and protection. It is also providing direct assistance to victims of trafficking for the short-term needs as well as longer-term reintegration in partnership with different stakeholders. Especially, IOM has identified people of diverse sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics (SOGIESC) as the group of people specifically vulnerable to exploitation. In celebration of International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, Biphobia and Intersexphobia (IDAHOBIT) on 17 May, IOM partnered with an association of people with diverse SOGIESC for advocacy and community mobilization for prevention of violence.

The counter – trafficking initiatives of IOM CAR are supported by UN Peacebuilding Fund and the U.S. TIP Office.

For more information, please contact Léo Torréton or Hyejeong Yoo at IOM Central African Republic.