Monday, March 17, 2008

Human traffickers to face heavy sentences in Ghana

From Joy Online and the Ghana News Agency:

The Human Trafficking Programmes Coordinator of the Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs Mr. Mark Dundaa, has warned that any person found engaging in human trafficking would serve a prison term of not less than five years.

He was speaking at a day's workshop on Human Trafficking for 25 volunteers in Krachi.

The participants were from Krachi West District and Sene District in the Brong-Ahafo Region.

The workshop was to sensitize the volunteers to help tackle human trafficking in the two districts which were noted to be the destinations for trafficked persons.

Mr. Dundaa said the Ministry had provided temporary basic material support for the care and protection of rescued victims of trafficking and called on stakeholders to support the victims in their rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

Mr. Dundaa said rescued victims were also being trained to acquire skills to enhance their socio-economic development.

Mr. George Achidre, Executive Director of Partnership in Community Development (PACOD), a local human trafficking non-governmental organization, which organised the workshop, urged the public to provide the police with information to help fight the menace.

He advised volunteers to be vigilant and attach seriousness to the work to curb the practice.

Although Ghana has made some progress in its effort to combat trafficking, it only made trafficking a crime in 2005 with the Human Trafficking Act. According to the Legal Resources Centre of Ghana (which produced this assessment of the definition of human trafficking according to the 2005 law), the law was "enacted as a result of increased public awareness of the problem of trafficking in Ghana, partly as a result of local media attention on the trafficking of children for exploitative work."

The exploitation of children happens very often in the fishing industry, according to this article from the UNODC:

Many Ghanian children are trafficked from their home villages to work in the fishing industry. Living in tough conditions and working long hours every day, they are exploited by fishermen desperate to feed their families and eke out a living along the banks of Lake Volta...

The driving forces behind child trafficking extend beyond fish scarcity. Deep-rooted traditions can also help explain the prevalence of this crime. For example, it is common in Ghana for children to participate in apprentice work with a relative or family friend. Many children, and their parents, believe that going away to work is a route to a better life.

"Child trafficking is actually a distortion of the old cultural practice of placement with relatives or townspeople," says Joe Rispoli, Head of the Counter-Trafficking Department of the International Organization for Migration in Ghana. "And many parents don't know the value of education; for them, it's more immediately valuable for their children to learn how to fish."

Child labour and even trafficking are deeply ingrained in the fishing industry in Ghana. Through conversations with child traffickers, it becomes clear that many of them simply do not realize that it is wrong for children to be away from their parents, missing school and performing hard physical work for long hours.

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