Curbing the Scourge of Human Trafficking In Liberia

TRAFFICKING IN HUMAN beings is a global scourge, with traffickers and syndicates in a complex and insidious network. Concerted global efforts to contend with this challenge have yielded minimal results. There seems to be a consensus that this serious embarrassment to the human race can be traced to the growing societal inadequacies: unemployment, political instability, greed, and gross class differentials.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING IN Liberia has remained a major security and human rights challenge. The country is a major source, transit and destination for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Conscripted mostly from rural areas or poor families, Liberia trafficking victims comprise largely of women and girls used for domestic servitude and enforced prostitution, and male minors subjected to forced labor, street vending, and such other slavish occupations.

THE CROSS-BORDER context of human trafficking in Liberia is presented by syndicates that procure travel documents, transportation fare and accommodation for the women and girls who are desperate to leave the country in search of greener pastures outside of the country.

THE LURE TO find a lucrative job abroad and earn a fat pay becomes clearly irresistible because of the lack of opportunities for improvement in life and the humiliating pangs of poverty in the country. It is only on arrival at their destination that the women and girls are confronted with the harsh realities that they have been deceived, and are ultimately lured or coerced into commercial sex.

SOME TIME AGO, a group of young ladies were recruited under a very unscrupulous manner that they were going to work in companies and other business entities in Lebanon but getting there, it became a different ball game entirely. The girls were forced into sex slavery and it took the swift action of the government to have these young ladies sent back Liberia. There are no independent statistics available so far about the numbers of persons being trafficked out of the country, but there is a serious rise in the number of persons who have fallen victims to this.

THESE KINDS OF unwholesome acts have been going on for some time now and there seems no solution is in sight.

RECENTLY, THE US State Department through the U.S. Embassy, released the 2021 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) country report with an indictment that downgraded Liberia to tier 2 status meaning that the Government of Liberia did not meet the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking.

MOVING FORWARD, THE report made a number of steps to suppress the occurrence of trafficking in persons in the country. These included but not limited to, increasing efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking cases, including internal trafficking cases and officials accused of complicity; training law enforcement and judicial officials on identifying, investigating, and prosecuting trafficking cases under the 2005 anti-trafficking law; amending the 2005 anti-trafficking law to remove the requirement of force, fraud, or coercion in child sex trafficking cases; prescribing penalties for adult trafficking that are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with the penalties for other grave crimes; and expanding victim services—particularly for victims located outside the capital, males, and victims requiring long-term care.

WHILE WE APPLAUD these recommendations, we would also like to propose additionally that the government must move further by creating an autonomous institution to combat this unwholesome criminality.

THE GOVERNMENT CAN give it any nomenclature it feels like, but there is a dire need for the creation of an autonomous body that will deal with human trafficking in the country as a response to and checkmate the ugly trade. It will also be a fulfillment of the country’s international obligations under the Trafficking in Persons Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children.

THE PRESENT WOMEN and Children Protection Section (WACPS) of the Liberian National Police and the Anti-Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Unit of the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) should be incorporated into the proposed anti-human trafficking institution so as to wage an effective war against the ugly act.

THE INSTITUTION WHEN established  should include among other things as functions and responsibilities,  to coordinate and enforce all other laws on trafficking in persons and related offences, adopt effective measures for the prevention and eradication of trafficking in persons and related offences, establish coordinated preventive, regulatory and investigatory machinery geared towards the eradication of tracking in persons, investigate all cases of trafficking in persons include labor, child labor, forced prostitution, exploitative labor and other forms of exploitation, slavery and slavery-like activities, bonded labor, removal of organs, illegal smuggling of migrants, sale and purchase of persons

OTHERS SHOULD INCLUDE, conducting research and strengthen effective legal means of international co-operation in suppressing trafficking in persons, create public enlighten and awareness through seminars, workshops, publications, radio and television programs and other means aimed at educating the public on the dangers of trafficking in persons, all functions and activities relating to investigation and prosecution of all offences connected with or relating to trafficking in persons,  adopt measures to identify, trace, freeze, confiscate or seize proceeds, property, funds or other assets derived from trafficking in persons in persons or related offences, etc.

THE MENACE OF human trafficking is damaging, disastrous and devastating to the victims, the family and the society at large. Specifically, trafficking leaves the victims with psychological; social and health problems such as HIV/AIDS. Also, victims of human trafficking are exposed to human rights violation, physical abuse, racial harassment, extortion, exploitation, destitution, arrest, detention, imprisonment and deportation.

CONSIDERING THE NOBLE position the media, religious bodies and traditional rulers occupy in the society, they are expected to play a pivotal role in the war against human trafficking. Government in particular should make the country attractive to citizens, especially the youths, through qualitative public education, job creation and provision of social infrastructures, which often constitute the push factor for emigration. Since women and girls are the most vulnerable to trafficking, the federal government is expected to reinforce relevant national laws and international conventions and protocols that protect the rights and privileges of individuals against trafficking.

WE ARE OF the fervent hope that the country can go a long way in unleashing the aggressive punches needed to minimize if not eradicate this shame to mankind. Trafficking in persons is not part of our culture and it should not be the trade our people should be involved in.

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