Meeting in Senegal Addresses Local, Regional Protection of Vulnerable Migrants, Victims of Trafficking

Counter-Trafficking, Migrant Assistance

Senegal – IOM, the UN Migration Agency, organized a three-day workshop on protecting vulnerable migrants in Senegal on 4-6 July. The main objective of the meeting was to build the capacity of regional and national civil society actors in identifying and assisting vulnerable migrants, especially victims of human trafficking.

Human trafficking persists in Senegal, despite government and civil society actors working to combat it. Trafficking is particularly problematic in the gold mining region of Kedougou, where this workshop took place — specifically in the villages of Kharakeyna, Sambrambougou, Bantako and Tenkoto. The most common forms of exploitation involve forcing individuals into begging, unpaid labour and sexual exploitation. Many Nigerian women are deceived by traffickers, leave their home country and are then forced into prostitution near gold mines in Senegal.

Based on assessments from actors present in the region, it appears that the concept of trafficking is still largely unknown by the public. This makes the identification of vulnerable migrants very difficult. IOM works in partnership with several national and local actors on the ground to better assist various categories of vulnerable migrants, including victims of trafficking.

"The presence of mines in Kedougou and its proximity to the borders shared with Guinea and Mali make it a very attractive city for migrants, as well as traffickers,” said Nnamdi Iwuora, IOM Regional Programme Officer. “Our goal is to build the capacity of local actors on migrant protection as they are best placed to identify and assist vulnerable migrants."

Thirty participants attended the workshop, where they discussed best practices for identifying and protecting vulnerable migrants, including victims of trafficking; conducted case studies; visited a rehabilitation centre in Kedougou, and a gold mining site in Tenkato. At the latter, the participants took part in an interactive session with the head of the village, the Nigerian migrant community, regional officials, and other civil society actors. They discussed how they could improve migrant protection and relations between the migrants and the host community.

"We are over thirty women here and all originally from Nigeria. We left our home because there was nothing there for us,” said Becky*, a representative of the Nigerian migrant community. “Living on the mining site is a risk that we are willing to take if we can make some money. Many of us have children at home and all we want is to provide them with a good education so they won’t have to do what I am doing now. But to be able to work, we need to be sure we are protected. We are forced to sleep with men but they don’t care about our situation. Let’s hope that local authorities will help us," she concluded.

The participants all agreed that more regional coordination is needed. Border officials in Mali should also be trained to identify vulnerable migrants passing through and to assist them if necessary. There is also a need to better equip state actors in the area. Officials need adequate transport to be able to reach vulnerable migrants who find themselves in rural areas where access to assistance is inadequate.

This workshop is part of the regional project, Protecting Vulnerable Migrants in West and Central Africa, funded by the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) of the State Department of the United States of America. One of the aims of the project is to build the capacity of government and civil society to protect vulnerable migrants in four countries in the region: Ghana, Burkina Faso, Gambia, and Senegal. The PRM project is being implemented by IOM for a period of one year, from October 2016 to October 2017.

*Name changed to protect identity

For further information, please contact, Tijs Magagi Hoornaert at the IOM Regional Office for West and Central Africa in Senegal. Tel: +221 784 600 619; Email:

  • A woman stands in a gold mine in Senegal's Kedougou Region. Photo: Tijs Magagi Hoornaert / IOM 2017

  • A photo of Becky (name changed to protect identity), a representative of the Nigerian migrant community. Photo: Tijs Magagi Hoornaert / IOM 2017