Friday, July 1, 2016

Gambia Lacks Minimum Standards To Eliminate Human Trafficking - Report

In West Africa, traffickers pose as Koranic school teachers and force young students to beg for food and money instead of allowing them to gain an education. In Europe, traffickers subject children—including Roma and disabled children—to forced begging. In South Asia, some traffickers maim children before subjecting them to forced begging to increase the children’s profits. (Photo taken from TIP 2016)

A U.S. State Department Report released on Thursday, June 30, has accused The Gambia Government of not fully meeting the “minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so.”

“Within The Gambia, women, girls, and to a lesser extent, boys are subjected to sex trafficking and domestic servitude,” the 2016 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report indicated. “The Gambia is a source and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.”   
For three consecutive years, the small West African country gets Tier 3 ranking. It means The Gambia does not fully comply with the “minimum standards” and have not shown the U.S. they are making significant efforts to do so.

In 2014 the U.S. State Department downgraded The Gambia alongside Thailand, Malaysia and Venezuela to Tier 3, the lowest possible ranking for a country’s response to fighting human trafficking and modern day slavery.

Like previous reports, the 2016 TIP Report stated that women, girls, and boys from Senegal, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and Benin are recruited for commercial sexual exploitation in The Gambia.

“The majority of these victims are subjected to sexual exploitation by European child sex tourists,” it stated. “Observers believe organized sex trafficking networks use both European and Gambian travel agencies to promote child sex tourism.”

Complicit in trafficking offenses

It also indicated that some corrupt or unscrupulous marabouts in Koranic schools force Gambian boys into begging and street vending. 

The report states that Gambian children have been identified as victims of forced labor in Ghana and Senegal, while women and girls are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking in Middle Eastern countries, including United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Lebanon.

The State Department said during the reporting period, the government repatriated and provided services to nine victims subjected to trafficking abroad and continued to conduct sensitization campaigns in key border regions.

However, it said the government did not complete any prosecutions, secure any convictions, or identify any victims within the country for the fourth consecutive year.

It said despite reports that government officials were complicit in trafficking offenses during the reporting period; the government did not investigate, prosecute, or convict any government officials complicit in trafficking offenses.

Prosecute trafficking offenses 

The June 2016 TIP report recommends that The Gambia “vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses” and ensure adequate sentencing for convicted trafficking offenders, including complicit government officials.

It said the government should train law enforcement personnel to identify trafficking victims proactively among vulnerable populations, such as boys in street vending, unattended children in tourist resorts known to be sex tourism destinations, and women in prostitution, and refer them to protective services.

Also, it recommends for improved data collection and public reporting on victim identification and law enforcement efforts, and to develop standard procedures for referring trafficking victims to NGO care services and inform government officials and the NGO community of such procedures.

The U.S. State Department wants The Gambia government to undertake cooperative efforts with anti-trafficking officials from governments in the region to enable joint law enforcement efforts, and the safe repatriation of victims to and from The Gambia.

It also wants it to provide adequate funding and resources to the national coordinating body (the National Agency Against Trafficking in Persons, NAATIP) to ensure its effective implementation of the anti-trafficking national action plan.

Gambia dismisses allegations

Following the country’s downgrading in June 2014, The Gambia Government stated that “the allegations contained in the U.S Department of State's report, that many Gambian boys attend Koranic schools and are forced into begging and street vending is, therefore, a misrepresentation of the facts.”

“It should be noted that there are no "almodos" in the streets of Banjul and its surroundings, as opposed to what exists in other countries in the sub-region,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

In July 2014, the authorities in The Gambia also arrested, detained and release on bail a journalist who reported about the problems the country's police face in investigating human trafficking.

Sanna Camara, also the publisher and editor of Gambia Beat, was accused of spreading false news after publishing a story in which the police admit facing problems in fight against human trafficking.

The story, ‘Police admit 'problems' with human trafficking’, whose original link is no longer accessible, was based on an interview with police spokesperson Superintendent David Kujabi to get his reaction to the U.S. State Department's 2014 TIP shortly after it was released.

Camara, who later fled the country and now lives in exile in neighbouring Senegal, has since published a version of the story on his blog, titled: ‘Problems’ of human trafficking in The Gambia’

Rankings interpreted:

Tier 1 countries include governments fully compliant with the minimum standards.

Tier 2 Countries don’t fully comply, but are making significant efforts to do so.

There is then a Tier 2 Watch List which includes countries with a high number of victims, or where the numbers are significantly increasing. It also includes countries where there’s insufficient evidence of acceptable efforts to improve anti-trafficking programs.

Tier 3 countries do not fully comply with the minimum standards and have not shown the U.S. they are making significant efforts to do so.

Written by Modou S. Joof

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