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General News
Ghana''s Human Trafficking Record Worsens 2/13/2007
Ghana has slumped to Tier 2 of the State Department of America''s rating of countries with respect to their efforts at combating Trafficking in Persons (TIPs), despite promulgating the Human Trafficking Law (Act 694) in 2005.

Indications are that, in the 2006/2007 edition which is expected to be released in the middle of the year, the State Department will still rate Ghana in Tier 2; regardless of the ongoing sensitization of the Ghanaian populace on the provisions of Act 694, the building of institutional structures and the various capacity building workshops being organized for security personnel.

The development sharply contrasts with what used to pertain in 2004 when, even without a legal framework for combating TIP, except for a bill before the Legislature, Ghana featured prominently in Tier 1 of the State Department''s rating. Reasons to be advanced for Ghana''s Tier 2 rating, Public Agenda has learnt, will include the lack of enforcement of the law - there is indeed a law but no prosecution or conviction has taken place.

The matter came to light at the just ended series of workshops organized in Accra by the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) for Security Agencies, Policymakers, Judiciary/Legal groups and members of the general public. What dropping from Tier 1 to Tier 2 simply means is that Ghana is not doing enough to combat human trafficking. Thus, the country''s reputation in international circles as a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking has been reaffirmed, some analysts have pointed out in various interviews with this paper.

According to many of them, the situation is not good for the country''s image, at least in the eyes of the United States of America, which itself, is conspicuously missing from the rating. "Placing Ghana in Tier 2 will not be fair to our efforts," an analyst observed. Like his colleagues, this analyst argued that until 2000, the issue of TIPs was fairly new to Ghanaians in view of our cultural and traditional practices. However, since then things have changed with the promulgation of the law against human trafficking, as well as, many other regulations, all aimed at enhancing human rights standards.

Speaking to Public Agenda on Tuesday on the issue, the National Programme Coordinator of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Mr. Matthew Dally, noted that prosecutions are hindered by people''s unwillingness to give evidence because most of the time cases involve relations. He said TIPs in Ghana is a complex crime, which involves a lot of individuals and groups all through the chain - supply to exploitation.

Mr. Dally explained that many of these cases involve closely related individuals in the sense that, under our cultural and traditional practices, a family may have genuinely given away their children to another family that is well-to-do to assist in catering for them, but sometimes the latter may abuse that goodwill. In such a case it would be difficult for the first family to testify against the latter one.

He therefore called for close attention to be paid to the matter, stressing that it is imperative "to distinguish between fosterage and TIPs." TIP is ranked as the third most profitable organized crime in the world, after drugs and arms. In West Africa, TIPs is considered as a severe problem in a third of the sub-region, while in Eastern, Central and Southern Africa, it is recognized as a problem in roughly one in three countries, the 2003 UNICEF report says.

It is also estimated that in West Africa, between 200,000 and 800,000 people are trafficked each year. In Ghana, statistics are inconclusive. But the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) Survey report of 2003 estimated that 20% of Ghanaian children were engaged in child labour and that most child labour situations are linked to internal trafficking.

Various reports have suggested that recruitments are mainly carried out in the northern part of the country, from where victims are transported to the south to work on cocoa farms, small-scale mining and as domestic servants. Other reports, suggest that almost all of the people, especially children who are trafficked to Yeji and other fishing communities along the Volta Lake are recruited from the Central and Western regions.

The Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MOWAC), which has been tasked to lead the implementation of Act 694 acknowledges the enormity of the problem, and says "the crime is especially pernicious, in that it preys primarily on the most vulnerable - women, children, the poorest and the least educated."

In a statement delivered on her behalf at the LRC - ILO series, the sector Minister, Hon Hajia Alima Mahama catalogued a number of initiatives being undertaken to tackle the menace. "A comprehensive programme for the dissemination of the Human Trafficking Law 2005 is also ongoing. This includes the dissemination of the Law to identified ''sending'' and ''receiving'' communities in the country. The target groups include the security agencies, chiefs, queen mothers, District Assemblies and opinion leaders in communities concerned."

The Minister however, decried the less that favourable responsiveness from community members, and the general public at large.
source: Public Agenda

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