The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Banjul has reacted to the U.S. Department of State's 2014 report on trafficking in persons, describing some of the contents as a "misrepresentation of the facts".
A news release issued by the ministry on Thursday announced that The Gambia has signed the protocol to prevent, suppress, and punish those involved in trafficking in persons, especially women and children.
It added that this conforms to the requirements of the UN convention against trans-national organized crime.
The release, broadcast on GRTS television last night, went on:
The Gambia is the second ECOWAS member state to set up a trafficking in persons' agency, after Nigeria and Niger - the only three such agencies in the entire sub region.
Moreover, since 2007 the Gambia police force, department of Social Welfare and other stakeholders have been sensitizing and creating public awareness on the ills of street-begging and the negative consequences for school-age children.
The allegations contained in the U.S. Department of State report that many Gambian boys attend Koranic school and are forced into street begging is, therefore, a misrepresentation of the facts.
It should be noted that there are no almudos in the streets of Banjul and its surroundings, as opposed to what exists in other countries in the sub region.
The allegation that the Gambia government did not provide comprehensive law enforcement data on trafficking in persons is also a misrepresentation of the facts.
There is adequate data on reported human trafficking cases in The Gambia. A partnership and cooperation agreement between the National Agency Against Trafficking in Persons in The Gambia and ChildFund, which ended in 2013, and resulted in the creation of a database for all, and is readily available for information purposes.
The government of the Gambia, in further compliance with the Palermo Protocol and in complementing the efforts of the United Nations to eradicate this modern day form of slavery, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Committee against Trafficking in Persons of the Republic of Senegal to combat cross-border trafficking crimes between the two countries.
It is surprising and disappointing to note that the political officers of the U.S. Embassy in Banjul are aware of this collaborative engagement between The Gambia and Senegal, but regrettably this was not captured in the U.S. report.
Most importantly, the Government of The Gambia, through its National Agency Against Trafficking in Persons, had this year taken bold steps to investigate some reported cases of human trafficking across its borders, specifically in Lebanon, where human trafficking of Gambian nationals is presently being reported.
It is, however, gratifying to note that The Gambia's unwavering commitment to pursuing culprits, creating awareness and deterring the practice of human trafficking in and across its borders, has been acknowledged in the report of the U.S. State Department, despite the many other anomalies.
This acknowledgement is all the more reason why placing The Gambia under Tier 3 in the world country ranking remains a big puzzle!
As a country, The Gambia has been working at all levels, nationally, regionally and internationally to fight against trafficking in persons, and it is worthy to note that the same U.S. government report, which placed The Gambia in the lowest ranking, also commended its preventive measures and efforts, which shows that The Gambia is indeed responding positively to the fight against trafficking in persons.