By Mohamed J Kargbo
On their collective efforts to combat human trafficking in the Mano River Union basin, the International Organization of Migration (IOM), Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) and the Mano River Union Secretariat have on March 27, 2023 organised a-three-day technical expert meeting at the Sierra Palms Hotel in Freetown.
The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Sub-Regional Technical Expert meeting was held following the fluency of trafficking in the MRU member states which includes Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast and Guinea.
In his opening remarks, Head of Office, IOM Sierra Leone, Christos Christodoulides, said he was delighted to witnessing an event of that magnitude taking place in Sierra Leone, adding that he felt privileged to see all stakeholders united and committed to fighting against human-trafficking within (MRU).
He said since IOM started its operations in Sierra Leone,some twenty years ago, they have learnt that combatting trafficking in persons requires comprehensive approaches and strong partnerships with Civil Society and NGOs.
He further said that IOM takes a comprehensive approach to addressing human trafficking, based on the 3P paradigm (Prosecution-Prevention-Protection).
“Let me seize this opportunity to wish that all of us continue working together in the fight against trafficking, and for the donor community to consider ways to fund programmes and support government and the national TiP taskforce efforts in that regard,” he concluded.
Making her keynote speech, Baindu Dassama, Minister of Social Welfare, said she was honoured to be part of the meeting geared toward the fight against human trafficking in the sub-region, especially when the meeting focuses on trafficking prevention, protection of victims, investigation and prosecution of perpetrators.
She said the Anti-Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Act of 2022, has tougher punishment for perpetrators, noting that they established a hotline-134 across the country for people to report human trafficking cases.
She highlighted some of the challenges Sierra Leone has been facing over the past four years in the implementation of relevant international and national anti-trafficking policy instruments and how to improve on counter-trafficking actions going forward.
She further said that task force members met to discuss and share initiative between Sierra Leone and Guinea, the meeting which was informed by shared understanding between Sierra Leone and Guinea.
She added that trafficking and irregular migration involving vulnerable women, children and youth including persons living with disabilities often takes place along porous borders.
She said that people that are being trafficked to other countries often engage in forced labour on large plantations, miming sites, and factories; as well as being exploited in forced begging and sex trafficking.
MRU Ambassador, Ambassador Maria G. Harrision said combatting human trafficking in the Mano River Union sub-regions is a must, adding that she was happy to be part of the deliberation over the next few days.
She expressed the need for a global joint force to fight the outrageous crime. She said that Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and Ivory coast should come together as members states under Mano River Union to combat human trafficking because the traffickers.