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Human trafficking is an act of slavery -President Bio

By Alhaji Haruna Sani

Human trafficking is an act of slavery which sees and treats human beings as mere commodities for making profit. The act is heinous, degrading, inhumane, cruel and barbaric. It impact is indelible for the victims, for their communities, for our nation and for the world at large. It poses a clear danger for our lives and future, said President Bio at the National Conference on Trafficking in Person.

The National Conference on Trafficking in persons  took place on Monday, February 28, at the Freetown International Conference Centre, the Bintumani Hotel, Aberdeen in Freetown.

The conference was organized by the Ministry of Social Welfare in collaboration with the Office of the Vice President. The theme for the event was “Strengthening National Frameworks and Stakeholder Networks to STOP modern Slavery.”

President Bio thanked the United States Government for monitoring and evaluating the progress his government has been making in less than four years.

He continued that, “We have set our national priority on human capital investment. We believe that development is driven by people who are healthy, food secured and well educated and can help harness their vital ability and talent to transform our nation. We have also prioritize the protection of all people especially girls, from all sorts of sexual and gender based violence. We have expunged the death penalty, promote free speech and more. We are working on progressive laws that empower women and youth and other vulnerable populations.”

The president assured more commitment to working with all stakeholders and development partners to redouble government efforts. He said within the policy and regulatory space, his government has worked along with partners to launch a comprehensive National Migration Policy for Sierra Leone. 

President Bio maintained that his government is making efforts to structure and monitor labour migration through the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, with services which have made migrant less accessible to exploitation and trafficking.

He said there were more possibilities for interagency and partner collaboration to get to labour migration rights policies.

“Domestically, we are reviewing and improving on the anti-human trafficking Act of 2005, Act No. 7. What the Anti-Human Trafficking did in 2021 is more expansive in accordance with international best practices. It addresses wider issues including death bondage, sex servitude illegal removal of organ of migrant and all sort of smuggling,” he said.

The President intimated that  the office of the vice president and partners  and the Ministry of Social Welfare have also established strategic proprieties for reducing Human Trafficking in Sierra Leone from 2022 to 2023.

He maintained that those strategic actions include training investigators, law enforcement officials, first respondents, including social workers which also involve stakeholders and community engagement to identify unidentified reporting of human trafficking cases in all forms.

“The ‘Men Pikin pikin’ phenomenon is inhumane, abusive and exploitative, therefore, it should be distanced.”

 He said in order to enhance a better reporting system, they have established a 134 toll free line connected to all three mobile companies in the country so as to enhance and capacitate all to fight against perpetrators against trafficking in persons.

In her address, the Minister of Social Welfare,  Madam Baindu Dasama, said the conference was organized as part of an initiative under pillar two of the national action plan against trafficking in persons, especially women and children. She said the action plan has been implemented by the National Taskforce Against Human Trafficking in the Ministry of Social welfare.

“About 200 participants drawn from various interest groups are taking part in this conference which has three key objectives, first  to initiate idea of having a dedicated trafficking in person data platform in the Mano River Union and ECOWAS region, second is to commence the operationalization of freedom minds dedicated to Anti-trafficking,” she said.

She informed the gathering that the National Action Plan has three key benefits, and the final is to put together an Anti-human trafficking strategy framework for implementation in the next five years by various stakeholders present at the conference.

 “We are all hunted by stories of ill-treatment by stories of brothers and sister and how they suffer in the hands of human traffickers. So, I am very happy that we are gathering here to discuss plausible measures on the way forward to tackle the menace,” she noted.

UN Resident Coordinator, Dr. Babatunde A. Ahonsi, said Trafficking in persons is a grievous criminal activity that constitutes an affront to human dignity, as it often entails serious human rights violations and abuses.

He said the link between human rights abuses and child trafficking of persons is clear, as victims of human trafficking are often deprived the enjoyment of such basic human rights, like the right to education, shelter and more.

He said despite effort of all, the phenomenon of child trafficking in persons is not peculiar to Sierra Leone because perpetrators often target the most vulnerable groups of society especially women and persons with disabilities who are often exploited for begging.

“Many cases victims and witnesses fail to report incidence of fear of reprisal of traffickers who are sometime neighbours or family members,” he said.

 He commended the government through the ministry of social welfare for their initiative of organizing such important event.

Various remarks were made by stakeholders including the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohamed Lamin Tarawallie, First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Madam Fatima Bio, Director of APPRIES, Dr. David OCHIENG Okech, Ambassador of Ireland, Claire Buckley. All of them spoke on the ills of Trafficking in Persons and committed their unflinching support to tackle the menace.

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