The government did not make anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Comorian law criminalized most forms of human trafficking. Article 13 of the 2014 Law to Combat Child Labor and Trafficking in Children criminalized all forms of child labor trafficking and some forms of child sex trafficking and prescribed penalties of 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 30 million Comorian francs ($68,330). These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Inconsistent with international law, Article 13 required a demonstration of force, fraud, or coercion to constitute a child sex trafficking offense, and therefore did not criminalize all forms of child sex trafficking. However, all forms of child sex trafficking, including those that did not include such means, could be addressed under Article 8, which criminalized child sexual exploitation and prescribed penalties of five to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of one to two million Comorian francs ($2,280 to $4,560); these penalties were also sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Comorian law did not explicitly criminalize adult trafficking. However, Article 323 of the penal code criminalized forced prostitution of adults and prescribed punishments of two to five years’ imprisonment and a fine between 150,000 and two million Comorian francs ($342 to $4,560); these penalties were sufficiently stringent but not commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Articles 2.1 and 260 of the Comoros Labor Code criminalized forced or compulsory labor of adults and prescribed penalties of three months’ to three years’ imprisonment or a fine of 250,000 to 750,000 Comorian francs ($570 to $1,710), which were not sufficiently stringent. Despite parliamentary approval in 2014, for the sixth year, the President did not sign into law the penal code amendments that would specifically prohibit trafficking in persons.
The government did not systematically collect data on law enforcement efforts, including human trafficking. The government did not report investigating, prosecuting, or convicting any traffickers, despite previous reports that listening centers recorded many cases that may have been trafficking. The government has not reported investigating a trafficker since 2014 and has never reported convicting a trafficker. The government also did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees allegedly complicit in human trafficking offenses; however, corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes at all levels of government remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action in previous years. The judicial system in Comoros remained weak; there were continued reports that criminals were frequently convicted and sentenced, but then released without explanation, creating a culture of impunity among criminals, including potential traffickers. While discouraged by the government, families or village elders continued to settle many allegations of sexual violence, possibly including sex trafficking and child domestic servitude, informally through traditional means without recourse to the formal court system. Many rural families still preferred informal arrangements with host families; however, judicial officials on Anjouan coordinated with prosecutors and a victim care provider to address and discourage the cultural practice of sending children from rural areas to urban host families for access to an education. Children in these arrangements were particularly vulnerable to trafficking. These government officials regularly traveled to rural villages on the island to enforce the legal requirement for the child’s family to sign an agreement with the host family regarding the care of the child. In previous years, judges were known to negotiate agreements between a child’s parents and his or her trafficker, often returning the child to trafficking situations. Some police reportedly returned sexually abused children to their exploiters, sometimes due to a lack of shelters or an alternative form of care.
The police lacked basic resources, including vehicles, fuel, and equipment, which limited their operations. The government did not provide training for law enforcement officials on how to recognize, investigate, and prosecute trafficking and related crimes. An international organization trained 20 police, gendarmes, and judges to create a pool of certified trainers on child protection; however, the government did not report that this included training on trafficking. As reported in prior years, the Ministry of Labor’s four labor inspectors—responsible, among other things, for implementing the 2015 child labor law prohibiting child trafficking—did not receive training on the trafficking law and did not receive operational resources to conduct labor inspections of informal work sites, where children were especially vulnerable to forced labor. Inspectors did not remove or assist any children as a result of labor inspections during the reporting period. The absence of a clear understanding of trafficking may have resulted in the misclassification of cases as other crimes, such as child labor, abuse, and rape.