In 2005, Sierra Leone passed the Anti-Human Trafficking Act, thus recognizing the phenomenon as a major national issue. A National Task Force on Human Trafficking was established with the responsibility to coordinate the implementation of this Act, especially with regard to the enforcement of the law against trafficking. However, in 2017, only 9 per cent of the victims of trafficking identified by the Sierra Leone Ministry for Social Welfare, Gender and Children Affairs (MSWGCA) came from the Western Urban District. “Criminal cases rely on victim testimonies, but this can be difficult to access since the Task Force is located in Freetown and most victims come from far away provinces,” explained Marian Harding-Tommy, Senior Social Welfare Officer for Human Trafficking at the MSWGCA. “Because victims of trafficking often cannot afford the expensive trip from their district to the capital to testify or present evidence, their cases are closed,” she added. But this will soon be a thing of the past. Last week, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) supported the MSWGCA in the decentralisation of the National Task Force in 14 of Sierra Leone’s districts to increase victims’ and potential victims’ access to information, protection and justice mechanisms, and avoid procedural delays related to prosecuting traffickers.
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The new district task forces will be co-chaired by the MSWGCA and the Office of National Security (ONS), and composed of traditional and religious authorities, the police’s Family Support Unit, youth committees, motor bikers’ union, teachers’ guild and radio journalists. Our aim is to bring the lifesaving services of the Task Force closer to the populations by bringing together key community members,” said Mangeh Sesay, National Project Officer for IOM Sierra Leone. Through monthly meetings, it is expected that these new district task forces will contribute to collecting more data and testimonies to assess the scope of human trafficking in the country. In the future, task force members will also be trained in identifying, referring and providing immediate assistance to victims of trafficking. IOM’s counter-trafficking activities in Sierra Leone are implemented in the framework of the Africa Regional Migration Program funded by the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM).
By Ophaniel Gooding
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