July 30 is World Human Trafficking Day (Blue Day). You Can Be Trafficked, Beware

BY: Bismark Bless Nyadzi

In a BBC and Red Bull documentary sighted on July 12 2022, a renowned athlete, Mohammed Farah revealed that he was trafficked to the UK as a child when he was nine years by a woman and forced to work as a domestic servant.

The Olympic star whose real name is Hussein Abdi Kahin disclosed in the documentary that the name was given to him by those who flew him over from Djibouti. This is just one of the many stories of some trafficking survivors.

Human trafficking is considered as a highly organised crime and is one of the global blights which affects all races. No country is exempted from this social scourge.

Traffickers usually use alluring offers such as employment or travel to trap vulnerable people especially, women and girls. They sometimes post these offers in authentic newspapers to convince people. Victims who fall prey to these offers sometimes pay for their own flights and arrive in the country legally with all their documents.

On arrival, these documents are seized and then “their trouble begins”.

A rather sad and a worrying situation is that parents are also involved in this barbaric act the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 2010, adopted the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, advising Governments globally to take coordinated and consistent measures to defeat this menace.

The Plan also called for assimilating the fight against human trafficking into the UN’s broader programmes in order to boost development and strengthen security worldwide. (www.un.org)

A high-level meeting to assess the Global Plan of Action by the General Assembly was held in 2013 out of which member states adopted and designated July 30 every year as the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons or the “Blue Day” with the symbol of the blue heart to show compassion for victims of trafficking.

The day is celebrated every year since 2013 to raise awareness about the ills of human trafficking and protect victim's rights. It is also to inform the world that it is a complex international problem that requires effective and efficient collaboration.

This years’ (2022) global theme is centred on the “use and abuse of technology”. It focuses on the role of technology as a tool that can both enable and impede human trafficking.

Ghana has been known to be a country of origin, transit, and destination for people especially women and children subjected to trafficking. It is estimated that over 40.3million people worldwide are in modern slavery, and the proceeds accrued from this act globally stands at over $160 billion annually. This makes it the second most lucrative unlawful business in the world currently. Approximately,133,000 people are estimated to be living in modern slavery in Ghana.

Ghana’s legislation on human trafficking

Enacted in 2005, Ghana’s Human Trafficking Act which is an Act for the prevention, reduction and punishment of human trafficking and for the rehabilitation and reintegration of trafficked persons and its related matters was set up to address human trafficking activities within, to, from, and through Ghana. It is worthy to noting that, the enactment of the law was guided by the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (Palermo Protocol)

To further support the Act is the legislative instrument known as Human Trafficking Prohibition (Protection and Reintegration of Trafficked Persons) Regulations which came into effect in 2015 (L.I. 2219). The National Plan of Action (2017-2021) for the elimination of human trafficking in Ghana currently replaced by the reviewed five-year new Human Trafficking National Plan of Action (2022 to 2026) which is a comprehensive document to support the effective implementation of the HT Act of 2005, Act 694.

Offenders of these acts are liable to a court sentence of five years minimum and 25 years’ maximum under the Human Trafficking Law.
Section 20 and 28 of the HT Act also establishes a Human Trafficking Fund with the aim of supporting victim care and rehabilitation together with a Human Trafficking Management Board that oversees the implementation of the HT Act respectfully.

According to the 2022 Trafficking in Persons report, (TIP) “the Government of Ghana does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared with the previous reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore, Ghana remained on Tier 2. These efforts included identifying significantly more trafficking victims and increasing trafficking investigations.”

The Trafficking in Persons Report, or the TIP Report, is an annual report issued by the U.S. State Department's office which rank governments based on their perceived efforts to acknowledge and combat human trafficking.

To ensure issues of human trafficking are curtailed in the country, the Human Trafficking Act, 2005 Act 694 established the Human Trafficking Secretariat (HTS) under the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection with the sole responsibility of ensuring input of programs into the national plan of action against human trafficking, and monitoring and reporting on the progress of the plan of action against human trafficking, setting standards of practice, which inform intra-agency and inter-agency protocol amongst others.

HTS making giant strides to curb trafficking related issues

With support from its stakeholders’ such as the European Union and Expertise France, the Human Trafficking Secretariat commissioned its state-of-the-art building and a trauma informed care centre. The well-equipped building aims to provide the HTS with adequate working environment to strengthen its efficiency in the coordination of actions against human trafficking in Ghana and to provide quality services to victims while the Trauma Informed Care Center will ensure cases are handled in a timely manner and victims get a comprehensive care as much as possible.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has supported the HTS to reintegrate more than 150 victims to their home country and 57 returned victims into Ghana.

Over the years, the HTS has collaborated with a host of partners and stakeholders to fight and educate people on human trafficking issues in the country. Notable among these includes European Union, Expertise France, UNICEF, International Organisation for Migration, Verité, the British High Commission, the Anti Human Trafficking Unit of the Ghana Police Service, the Economic and Organised Crime Office, the Attorney General’s Department, the Anti- Human Smuggling and Trafficking in Persons Unit under the Ghana Immigration Service, the Department of Social Welfare at both the local and national levels and a host of civil society organisations.

The HTS with support from law enforcement officials rescued 831 victims of child trafficking in 2021, A total number of 87 cases were reported and investigated by law enforcement officials. Thirty-two cases were prosecuted involving 37 individuals; 13 convictions gained for human trafficking, nine for child labour and 10 for other related offences. Fourteen individuals were charged and convicted for child labour exploitation whilst 13 individual defendants were charged with human trafficking offences and jailed between five and seven years in prison. It is important to note that majority of offenders involved parents and traffickers that exploit their children.

Additionally, an adult shelter which has been in operation since 2019 has received over 153 rescued clients and these victims were successfully rehabilitated and reintegrated back into their communities. The children shelter has also recorded the rehabilitation of over 70 child victims since its operation in 2020 with the ministry’s psychologists who gave a comprehensive trauma informed care for rescued victims. Much of these gains were made due to the Human Trafficking Fund.

Again, the secretariat has organised intensive training for law enforcement officials, staff of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and other relevant key stakeholders’ in the human trafficking sector. Since 2021 to date, 670 law enforcement officials have been trained together with 217 other stakeholders sensitised on issues of human trafficking, irregular migration, child labour and child protection.

Another strategic advocacy drive initiated by the Ministry is the Social Protection Dialogues Series. This drive is basically to engage people at the community levels on issues of human trafficking, social protection interventions and gender-based violence among others to create awareness on the dangers of these social issues.

The fight against human trafficking cannot be borne by the government alone, it needs efficient and effective collaboration from all quarters to fight this menace.

As we commemorate this years’ human trafficking day, the Ministry is bringing your attention to this canker. As an individual, you can help fight this by alerting law enforcement officials or an elder in your community if you notice any sign of human trafficking element.

Lastly, before you accept that job offer or even travel, do a proper background check as this can be a bait to your end. Always remember that, you can be trafficked.

Stay alert and be vigilant.

The writer is a communications officer at the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection