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USA reports on Ghana Human Rights Abuses: Traffick

Young Bajan
2003-04-01 19:05:56

Country reports for 2002 on Human Rights Abuses. Hot off the press from the US State Department, announced yesterday by Colin Powell himself.

Nuff Respect, Young Bajan.

Ghana - Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2002

Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor - March 31, 2003

f. Trafficking in Persons

No laws specifically addressed trafficking in persons, and trafficking in persons was a problem; however, the Government could prosecute traffickers under laws against slavery, prostitution, and underage labor. The country was a source and a destination country for trafficked persons. The Government acknowledged that trafficking was a problem.

The law, which defines the rights of children and codifies the law in areas such as child custody, health, and education, did not address specifically trafficking. The country was a signatory of ILO Convention 182 and various ministries were working with the ILO and NGOs to address trafficking. In March draft legislation criminalizing trafficking in persons and establishing specific penalties for convicted traffickers was completed; however, the legislation was not submitted to Parliament by year's end. The Ministry of Manpower Development and Employment, in conjunction with ILO/IPEC, implemented a "National Plan of Action for the Elimination of Child Labor in Ghana (see Section 6.d.)."

Law enforcement authorities were not trained or given sufficient resources to deal with the problem and had a difficult time identifying persons who were being trafficked because of the fluid nature of family relations in the country. For example, a friend often was called a "cousin," and an older woman an "aunt," even if there was no blood relation. The Government was attempting to train security forces, immigration authorities, customs and border officials, and police on issues of trafficking, and early in the year, immigration officials were successful in stopping some child traffickers. There were no developments in the April 2001 case in which a woman was arrested at Paga, Upper East Region for trafficking to the Gambia eight boys and three girls, between the ages of 6 and 14 or the 2000 case of two men who had attempted to sell two young men into forced labor for $9,100 (50 million cedis) and were charged with "slave dealings."

Trafficking was both internal and international, with the majority of trafficking in the country involving children from impoverished rural backgrounds. The most common forms of internal trafficking involved boys from the Northern Region going to work in the fishing communities in the Volta Region or in small mines in the west and girls from the north and east going to the cities of Accra and Kumasi to work as domestic helpers, porters, and assistants to local traders. In 2000 more than 100 boys reportedly were contracted out to Lake Volta fishermen (see Sections 6.c. and 6.d.). Local NGOs reported these children were subjected to dangerous working conditions and sometimes were injured or killed as a result of the labor they perform.

During the year, several persons were intercepted while trying to take approximately 50 persons from the northern part of the country to work in the southern part of the country. The 50 children were returned to their homes and the traffickers were in police custody. The case was pending in court at year's end.

Children between the ages of 7 and 17 also were trafficked to and from the neighboring countries of Cote d'Ivoire, Togo, and Nigeria to work as farm workers, laborers, or household help. On September 5, four Ghanaian girls aged 14 to 18 were handed over to WAJU at the Ghana-Togo border. The girls said they were taken from Ghana and forced to work as prostitutes in Nigeria. On September 7, one woman was arrested, and the investigation was ongoing at year's end.

Much of the recruitment of children was done with the consent of the parents, who sometimes were given an advance payment or promised regular stipends from the recruiter and were told the children would receive food, shelter, and often some sort of training or education. Some parents sent their children to work for extended family members in urban areas; treatment of children sent to work in relatives' homes varied. Many children were given to professional recruiters, usually women, who placed the children with employers in cities. A child in these circumstances usually was paid between $2.50 and $3.75 (20,000 and 30,000 cedis) per month. In many cases, the children never received the education or vocational training the recruiters promised. Girls may be forced into prostitution and often were sexually abused by their employers.

Women also were trafficked to Western Europe, mostly Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. International traffickers promised the women jobs; however, the women often were forced into prostitution once they reached their destination. The women were sent sometimes directly to Europe, while others were trafficked through other countries. Some young women were trafficked to the Middle East, particularly Lebanon, where they worked in menial jobs or as domestic help. There also was a growing trade in Nigerian women transiting Ghana on their way to Western Europe and reportedly the Middle East to work in the sex industry. Traffickers in person from other countries reportedly used Accra as a transit point to Europe and reportedly the Middle East. There reportedly was some trafficking in persons from Burkina Faso, mostly transiting Ghana on the way to Cote d'Ivoire.

In March the Government announced its National Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons. The plan called for new legislation to criminalize trafficking in persons, specific penalties for traffickers, and specialized training for law enforcement agencies to detect and prosecute traffickers. A National Commission to Combat Trafficking was created, which coordinated antitrafficking efforts of governmental and nongovernmental actors.

Several NGOs, both local and international, worked with trafficking victims. These organizations, as well as the University of Ghana's Center for Social Policy Studies, conducted studies into trafficking as part of their broader agenda, performed some rescue operations for street kids, provided training and education for victims of trafficking and abuse, and in some cases, assisted with family reunification.

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