As Grand Cape Mount County continues to encounter suspected cases of human trafficking, with the Liberia Immigration Services (LIS), the Ministry of Labor (MoL) in partnership with the Defense for Children International (DCI) and USAID (United States Agency for International Development), held an interactive engagement meeting with residents of Sinje to provide updates on where Liberia stands in the fight against TIP (Trafficking in Persons) as well as explain how residents could be a help in reporting cases of TIP..
The one-day consultative meeting, which took place in Sinje on July 29, 2020, brought together local authorities, including youths, elders, Town Chiefs and traditional leaders, among others.
The county over the years has experienced a series of suspected cases of human trafficking, with the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) alleging that people are trafficked from neighboring Sierra Leone to Liberia through porous border points.
Speaking at the meeting in Sinje, Deputy Labor Minister for Manpower, Atty. Phil Tarpeh Dixon and Assistant Justice Minister for Litigation, Atty. Wesseh A. Wesseh, in separate remarks, told inhabitants of Sinje that the fight to eradicate human trafficking should not be left with the government alone.
Minister Dixon, who chaired the meeting, acknowledged that the community’s involvement is fundamental to the fight because the crime is being perpetrated in the communities.
Atty. Wesseh stressed the importance for community members to lead the awareness so that they can alert the government and relevant agencies when there are suspected incidents of human trafficking happening in their communities.
Atty. Wesseh: “Once you see a child, who was brought for schooling, all around the street selling and not even in school, report the case to us.”
He indicated that the Ministry of Justice is leading the government’s response against TIP and has prosecuted several suspects. He said that community members have to be aware that not all cases of TIP will be won by the government because the court makes the last decision.
But he encouraged other ministries and agencies to work closely with MoJ in ensuring that all cases of human trafficking are speedily tried.
Participants at the dialogue also expressed concerns about the fear of reporting suspected cases of Trafficking in Persons.
A representative of the Child Welfare Committee, Vivian Kamara, lamented that it is risky for anyone to report such a matter in Grand Cape Mount County due to cultural practices.
“Parents themselves or transporters personally attack people who go to advise them against their involvement with Trafficking in Persons,” he added.
Vivian Kamara, a resident of Sinje, also alleged that some people in the county are unknowingly involved with human trafficking because people in the area are not educated about the issues of trafficking. She also noted that the county has several crossing points, many of which are used by foreigners to enter the country.
According to her, on many occasions, people that are involved in such an act comes from neighboring Sierra Leone.
But she acknowledged that DCI has been the only organization that has so far helped in recent times in terms of educating the people. Ms Kamara: “This is not enough for us, looking at the number of crossing points we have here in the county, only a few crossing points have the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) [guarding them].”
Ishmael Kpeah, Director for Migration at the LIS, said the number of suspected cases of TIPs recorded shows that curbing human trafficking is crucial for the government.
Kpeah also complained of interference in their movement to track down suspected perpetrators. Mr. Kpeah, however, acknowledged that many people suspected of being trafficked are brought into the country from Sierra Leone because of the porous border situation.
It may be recalled that earlier this year, the United States’ 2020 TIP report raised Liberia’s TIP status to that of Tier 2. This change, according to the report, was a direct result of the commitment and diligent frontline work of individuals in Liberia to end human trafficking.