Slavery in Burundi

Overview

 

Burundi is a source country for children trafficked for the purposes of child soldiering, domestic servitude, and commercial sexual exploitation.

 

Human trafficking of Burundian adults and children with albinism to Tanzania for the forcible removal of body parts may occur; so-called Tanzanian traditional healers seek various body parts of persons with albinism for traditional medical concoctions commonly purchased to heal illness, foster economic advancement, or hurt enemies.

 

Burundi is a source country for children and possibly women subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking. Due to a complex political, economic, and security crisis in 2015, more than 400,000 Burundians fled to refugee camps in neighbouring countries and many others sought refuge at internally displaced persons (IDP) camps or moved to the homes of extended family members. Burundi’s fragile economic and security environment created an opportunity for criminals, including traffickers, to take advantage of Burundians in precarious or desperate situations.

 

The Government of Burundi does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. Despite the lack of significant efforts, the government took some steps to address trafficking, including by organizing and participating in several workshops to train government officials and coordinating with the Government of Rwanda to repatriate 28 alleged trafficking victims. It also investigated several cases involving the alleged recruitment of Burundian women for exploitation in forced labour in the Middle East.

 

The Guardian newspaper reported that ‘after months of investigations, we're seeing that human trafficking and sex trafficking in particular exists in Burundi on a scale no one would have imagined.’

Victims include girls from poor rural backgrounds and those brought up in middle-class families in the capital. They found that young girls were being recruited across the country and either forced into prostitution or sold abroad. ‘You find girls of nine or 10, but most of them are in the 13, 14, 15 age range.’

 

In June 2016 Inyenyeri News reported that ‘Burundi human rights groups say about 800 young girls and women have been taken to Gulf states to work as household slaves since October’.

 

Keza, who comes from a poor district in the capital, says she was locked up and used as a sex slave by a senior intelligence officer for several months when she was 15. "He threatened me and he threatened my parents," she says, adding that she no longer wishes to see her family after the ordeal. "I filed a formal complaint against him and he received several summons, but he has never shown up. The case has gone nowhere."

 

Khadija, 15, a Muslim girl from a poor rural family, remains traumatized by her year-long ordeal, during which she was lured to the Gulf. "Some people came to see my parents and said they had well-paid domestic work for me in Oman," she says, staring at her feet. "In fact, I worked 16 hours a day, every day. I slept on the floor and I was never paid anything.”

 

Although the government took steps to increase the number of anti-trafficking trainings for government officials, authorities continued to lack understanding of trafficking, and the government did not provide adequate anti-trafficking training for its personnel. Trafficking victims continued to be subject to arrest and detention for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking.

 

The government acknowledged the large-scale recruitment of Burundian women for work in the Middle East. In July 2016, a civil society group alleged trafficking networks in Burundi involving five recruitment companies, government officials and security officers, had fraudulently recruited up to 2,500 Burundian women and girls who subsequently endured forced labour and sex trafficking in Oman and Saudi Arabia.

 

Legislation

 

Burundi’s anti-trafficking law, enacted in October 2014, prohibits the trafficking of adults and children for the purpose of forced labour or services and sex trafficking. The definition of “forced labor or services” in the law, however, fails to account for situations where an individual might initially consent to labor but is later forced, defrauded, or coerced to provide such labor.

 

The government did not take steps to implement its national anti-trafficking action plan, approved in March 2014, and did not establish the Consultation and Monitoring Committee mandated by the 2014 anti-trafficking act to coordinate and lead national anti-trafficking efforts.

 

The government did not investigate internal trafficking or sex trafficking crimes, and did not prosecute or convict any alleged trafficking offenders. It did not investigate or hold accountable any officials complicit in trafficking crimes despite serious allegations that arose during the year.

 

 

Slavery in Burundi