Guinea-Bissau has a small but rapidly growing population, estimated at 1.5 million people (INE, 2013). Over half of them are under 18 years of age and the proportion of population in the age between 0-34 years is 80 per cent (population projection for 2016). In 2016, the country ranked low on Human Development Index (HDI) with a rank of 178 (out of 188) countries (UNDP, 2016). The majority of the population (69 per cent) lives on less than USD 2 per day (World Bank, 2010). One out of two persons in the country is illiterate.
The country has been characterized by political instability for many decades resulting in the deterioration of living conditions and in underlying tensions. The lack of accountability of the political system is cause for conflict. This has contributed to failing or ineffective state institutions especially in critical areas of health, education and poverty reduction. Almost a sixth of the population, which lives in rural areas, faces many challenges in accessing basic services. The lack of resources coupled with extreme levels of poverty have further exacerbated the situation.
Guinea-Bissau is a country of origin for many young people who are looking for better livelihood opportunities abroad. Irregular migration, especially the regions of Gabu, Oio and Bafata, has become a widespread phenomenon lately with an increasing number of youth falling prey to unscrupulous smugglers and, in some cases, losing their lives crossing the desert on the Central Mediterranean Route. Lack of knowledge about the dangers of irregular migration especially among rural Guinea-Bissau populations is still a major challenge that needs to be addressed.
Moreover, evidence and witness reports from governmental and non-governmental stakeholders imply that Guinea-Bissau is heavily affected by trafficking in persons, including child trafficking for forced labour and sexual exploitation. Particularly evident, and also the most reported form, is trafficking of children (so called talibés) who are entrusted by their parents to adults pretending to be religious leaders (marabouts) on the pretext of providing religious education to their children. However, in most cases, the children end up in forced labour or begging and experience severe abuses by their traffickers or while on the streets.
Under the EUTF-IOM project on migrant protection and reintegration, IOM is supporting the reintegration of 700 returnees through individual, collective and community reintegration projects that range from training and education to income generating activities especially related to agriculture, trade, carpentry or tailoring. Protection mechanisms are also put in place for vulnerable cases through special legal and psychological assistance. Under the same action, IOM is also building the capacity of the Government to manage return migration and to raise awareness among the general population regarding the risks of irregular migration and the opportunities existing for youth in Guinea-Bissau.
Donor: European Union Trust Fund (EUTF)
Enhancing Awareness of Trafficking in Children and Strengthening the Protection of Cictims in Guinea-Bissau
The main goal of this 12-month project is to support efforts of the Government of Guinea Bissau to combat trafficking in persons by strengthening its capacities to successfully prevent and protect child victims of trafficking and those at risk of trafficking. Beneficiaries include children at risk of trafficking, victims of trafficking, the public, law enforcement officers and judicial institutions. IOM will provide direct support to 150 talibé children. It will also provide ad hoc training on referral mechanisms for children and the monitoring of child trafficking cases. It will also implement awareness-raising activities among community members to enhance knowledge on child trafficking prevention, communication and awareness raising.
Donor: United States Embassy in Dakar
In order to respond to the challenge posed by the lack of reliable data on migration in Guinea-Bissau, IOM is supporting the Government of Guinea Bissau to develop a Migration Profile. The Guinea-Bissau migration profile will provide a framework for bringing existing migration information from different sources together in a structured manner at both national and regional levels and a means to identify and develop strategies to address data and policy development needs. Migration Profiles aim to strengthen the evidence base and to encourage evidence-based migration policy making.
Donor: Free Movement and Migration in West Africa Programme (FMM)