The purpose of the action was to prevail upon their foster parents to send them to school.
The Concerned Youth of Liberia (CYL), the mastermind behind the police action, said more than 10 of the children arrested were between 10 and 14 years old. They were arrested with their goods allegedly given them by their foster parents.
According to CYL chairman, Mr. Lame L. Massaley, the children were arrested in the morning hours yesterday when they were supposed to be in school.
The children were arrested for the act of child labor, he said.
“Our organization has been involved in taking children off the streets and in cases of child labor, child trafficking, and child exploitation since 2006.
“Children that are involved in these cases are ... brought from the interior by relatives and friends of their biological parents with the intent of sending them to school. On the contrary, however, they are being used as domestic slaves, domestic laborers, or bread winners for their adopted families.”
Under the new penal code law of Liberia, Section 16.4, he said, these acts “endanger the life of the child. We want to make sure to get the children off the streets and contact the parents or guardians to sensitize them about the danger that street selling poses to these children.
“There is a free primary school program that is being offered by the government. Why can’t these parents take advantage of it and prepare a better future for their children to become generational leaders tomorrow? Why [is] the future of innocent children... being wasted in the streets for little or nothing? What becomes of Liberia when these children are not given the requisite education and training? This is the time to take the appropriate steps to save the future of our beloved country,” Massaley said.
The officer representing the Women and Children Division of the police, Mrs. Esther Diawalo, said some of the children were brought from neighboring countries and were unable to even speak English.
“This makes it difficult for us to communicate with them. The crimes of child labor and child trafficking are becoming serious problems for our society. We need to fight these problems collectively. Be it government, community dwellers, or police officers, we all need to join hands,” she told reporters.
“People in the communities need to identify to our field agents people that are practicing these acts. The fight against these crimes should begin from the communities because these are the areas [where] the perpetrators and the victims live.”
One of the arrested children, a 14-year-old girl, said that her aunt brought her from Guinea to be sent to school. But since her arrival, she has not entered school. She has been selling bread for about four years now. She said her aunt always beats her whenever she does wrong.
A 13-year old girl picked up by the police said she just underwent a medical operation. However, her aunt has not allow her to rest since she came from the hospital. She is always on her feet selling bread. She says she sometimes feels pains from the operation mark.
According to Mr. Massaley, the operation that is being carried out by the CYL in collaboration with the police is being sponsored by one Mrs. Evelyn Gardner and the chairman of the organization’s board, Mr. Nathaniel Kelvin. He called on the government to intervene and enhance his organization’s efforts.