In accordance with the United Nations Initiative to Fight Trafficking in Persons (UNGIFT), regional experts meeting in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire in November, the Internal Affairs ministry and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime yesterday started a three-day workshop to capacitate the national task force.
Officially declaring the session open at the Lagoonda Complex auditorium, the deputy minister of Internal Affairs Kalilu Kalokoh said, “the workshop is a follow up of UN Global Initiative to Fight Trafficking in Persons which was held in November on the topic: “preventing and combating trafficking in children in armed conflict in West and Central Africa.”
He noted that, “our acceptance of hosting [the workshop in Sierra Leone] is to register our commitment as a government to all fight against human trafficking”, adding that prior to realization of trafficking as a criminal act, “the urge of Sierra Leoneans to travel overseas for greener pastures was the order of the day.”
The minister explained that by then many considered it as pride and privilege to move out of the shores of this country, but added that, “criminals took the advantage of the urge by Sierra Leoneans and pretended to facilitate their movement. With time, it came to be realized that these criminals undertook this act for some ulterior motives by the recruitment, transportation and other means for the purpose of exploitation.”
Mr Kalokoh pointed out that the penalty for human trafficking was laudable. “It makes convicted persons liable to a fine not exceeding fifty million Leones or imprisonment not exceeding ten years or to both such fines and imprisonment.”
“If the perpetrators to this act do not relent, Government is prepared to formulate stronger policies until they find the whole trade not worth undertaking,” adding that “in the light of the seriousness that the Government and my Ministry attach to this crime, I crave the indulgence of participants to give this subject the attention it deserves.”
Giving a statistical rundown of incidences of trafficking in persons, Assistant Inspector General (AIG) Kadie Fakondo explained that the most recent statistics from the Family Support Unit (FSU) in 2006 reported that 21 cases of human trafficking were reported, of which more than half were girls under the age of 16, noting that of the 21 cases reported, 11 individuals were charged with trafficking, but only one was convicted.
“On July 19, Nasiru Mustapha was arrested for abducting a five-year-old boy for the purpose of child trafficking and on July 31, two minors, Abu Bakarr Koroma and Nasiru Mansaray were arrested for trafficking a five-year-old boy in the provinces; “the case is still being tried,” she said. In 2006, the AIG disclosed that, “a woman from Goderich was convicted to trafficking and sentenced to five years imprisonment. This was the first conviction under the new Anti-trafficking Law.”
AIG Fakondo explained that in spite of local and international endeavours to eradicate this barbaric and criminal trade in human trafficking, most vulnerable, being women and children, the dimension, dynamics and pervasiveness still remain the same. “The economic gains accrued to perpetrators, endemic poverty, and lack of adequate and proper investigative skills to criminalize and prosecute offenders partly explain why the trade has gone on unabated,” she maintained. In his statement the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime National Programme Officer, Papa Babacar Ndiaye said, “we at UNDOC firmly believe that it presents a serious, global threat to human security, whilst undermining social and political instability and the rule of law by fuelling money laundering and corruption and corruption among law enforcement agencies and the judiciary.
By Ophaniel Gooding