By Ishmael Bayoh, Information Attachě, Sierra Leone Embassy, Dakar, Senegal
Dakar, Senegal – Six Sierra Leonean girls, ranging in ages from 14 to 22, have been rescued from forced prostitution in Dakar and are currently under the care of the Sierra Leone Embassy in Dakar, awaiting repatriation.
These girls were lured by a promise of employment in a Sierra Leonean restaurant in Dakar by their aunt, who is a resident in the area. However, upon arrival, it became evident that the girls were to be engaged in prostitution.
Sharing their ordeal, the eldest girl, 22-year-old Hawanatu Sesay, explained that their aunt in Freetown, Isatu Deen, was informed by her sister, Hafsatu Leigh, residing in Dakar, that an employer in Senegal required six girls for employment in a Sierra Leonean restaurant. National identity cards were prepared for the girls, which later turned out to be fake. Plans were made for the girls to travel, arranged by Hafsatu Leigh, who had also organized a driver to pick them up from Conakry, Guinea.
The girls departed Freetown via Conakry on October 5th, 2023, and upon reaching Senegal on October 9th, they were taken to a location called Diamniado to meet their aunt, Hafsatu, known in Senegal as Adama.
Upon arrival, Adama introduced the girls to another woman who, after their meal, confiscated their phones and any written contact information. This woman then disclosed the true reason for their presence in Senegal, stating that they were there for prostitution. Shocked by this revelation, the girls refused.
Later, six other women arrived, introduced as their supervisors. A tense situation ensued, with some of the girls in tears. The altercation led to their confinement in a room by Adama, instructing them to rest before being sworn to secrecy.
However, the girls managed to escape on October 9th. Their escape was facilitated by a 16-year-old girl, who prayed for assistance, leading to an opportunity to flee when she feigned illness, prompting Adama to briefly leave the door unlocked.
Tracing their steps to the embassy, Hawanatu explained that during their journey to Senegal, they had exchanged contacts with a Sierra Leonean man named Augustine. Retaining his contact details in her bag, they reached out to him after their escape. Augustine, in turn, contacted a Sierra Leonean woman named Mimi Sharp, who then alerted the Sierra Leone Ambassador, H.E Alhaji Brima Elvis Koroma. Ambassador Koroma instructed the girls to be brought to the Sierra Leone Embassy on October 19th, 2023.
Upon their arrival at the embassy, the Minister of Information and Civic Education, Chernor Bah, was visiting and emphasized the gravity of the situation, stressing the need for extensive civic education.
The girls were provided with safe lodging at the embassy, as efforts to collaborate with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) for their repatriation are underway.
Ambassador Koroma has initiated efforts to locate and prosecute those responsible, informing Senegalese law enforcement authorities and planning community outreach to deter and identify individuals involved in human trafficking.
This incident sheds light on the perils faced by individuals tricked into exploitative situations, highlighting the imperative need for vigilant action against human trafficking. IB/29/10/2023