Accra — A 17-member national steering committee that will oversee the implementation of the national intervention data base project for combating human trafficking in Ghana has been inaugurated in Accra. The initiative which seeks to demonstrate Ghana's commitment to fighting the menace comes in the wake of the release of the ninth annual Trafficking in Persons report (TIP) published in 2009 by the US Department of State and which sheds light on the faces on modern-day slavery and on new facets of this global problem.
The report named Ghana as a source, transit, and destination country for children and women trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation.
Mrs. Sylvia Hinson-Ekong, Executive Director of Rescue Foundation Ghana (RSG) told journalists in Accra that, the outputs of the project will include capacity building, generation of a first national report on human trafficking in Ghana and dissemination of the report among others. "The database will serve as a source of information on human trafficking for planning and implementation of projects in the sector. It should encourage more players to work in the sector and attract more donors to the sector. I hope this partnership example between government and civil society will be replicated in other sectors to accelerate national development."
Outgoing minister for MOWAC, Ms Akua Sena Dansua noted that the lack of a national database affects effective planning and programming for making interventions in trafficking in persons in Ghana. She was hopeful the project will also promote effective advocacy, decision making, planning, programming as well as adopting innovative mechanisms in combating human trafficking in Ghana.
The United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Trans-national Organized Crime (2000) states that, "Trafficking in persons" shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.
Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, engaging others in prostitution or forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.
The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation shall be considered "trafficking persons".
Reports say trafficking in persons is a global phenomenon and that the trend is going upward. Last year, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said global human trafficking yielded between 7 and 12 billion US dollars, the third most profitable form of trafficking after arms and narcotics. Yet, whereas those who deal in drugs and guns can expect stiff penalties, if caught, penalties for traffickers in many countries seem less severe.
Ghana passed the Human Trafficking Act, Act 694 in 2005, to help deal effectively with the issue.
The TIP report stated that trafficking within the country is more prevalent than transnational trafficking and the majority of victims are children. Both boys and girls are trafficked within Ghana for forced labor in agriculture and the fishing industry, for street hawking, forced begging by religious instructors, as porters, and possibly for forced kente weaving.
Over 30,000 children are believed to be working as porters, or Kayayei, in Accra alone. Annually, the IOM reports numerous deaths of boys trafficked for forced labor in the Lake Volta fishing communities. Girls are trafficked within the country for domestic servitude and sexual exploitation.
The TIP stated that trans-nationally, children are trafficked between Ghana and other West African countries, primarily Cote d'Ivoire, Togo, Nigeria, the Gambia, Burkina Faso, and Gabon for the same purposes listed above. Girls are trafficked for sexual exploitation from Ghana to Western Europe, from Nigeria through Ghana to Western Europe, and from Burkina Faso through Ghana to Cote d'Ivoire.
Last year, Chinese women were trafficked to Ghana for sexual exploitation and a Ghanaian woman was also trafficked to Kuwait for forced labour. According to the report, Ghana does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking although it is making significant efforts to do so, despite limited resources. During the year, Ghanaian police intercepted a greater number of trafficking victims than the preceding year.
Despite these achievements, the government demonstrated weak efforts in prosecuting and punishing trafficking offenders or ensuring that victims received adequate care; therefore, Ghana is placed on Tier 2 Watch List.
The TIP report recommends that Ghana increases efforts to prosecute and convict trafficking offenders, including those who subject children to forced labour in the Lake Volta fishing industry and those who force Ghanaian children and foreign women into prostitution. It further recommends to Ghana to establish additional victim shelters, particularly for sex trafficking victims; continue to apply Trafficking Victim Fund monies to victim care; and train officials to identify trafficking victims among women in prostitution and to respect victims' rights.
The Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MOWAC) has the mandate to coordinate activities on human trafficking. Trafficking units are established in both the Police and the Ghana Immigration Service while several NGOs and stakeholders have projects to combat human trafficking. However, all these are scattered and uncoordinated.
It is for this reason that MOWAC is collaborating with Rescue Foundation Ghana (RFG) with support from the British High Commission to develop a national database on stakeholders and interventions being undertaken to combat trafficking of persons in Ghana.
First Secretary, Migration Policy (West Africa) of the British High Commission, Mr. Andrew Fleming, bemoaned that most victims of human trafficking often come from the poorest and most vulnerable sections and that the duty of all and sundry should be to help them spiritually and ethically.
"Help is not just about preventing trafficking and the rescue of victims. It is equally critical that cross sector partnerships work together to rehabilitate these victims."
He commended Ghana for her attempts to ensure good practice on rehabilitation but said more victims need to benefit from this.