‘Vulnerable Country’

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Officers of the Liberian Immigration Service learned how to investigate fraud, human trafficking, and the new Act of the Agency.

— Says LIS, confirming that Liberians at high risk of being trafficked

Liberians stand a high risk of being trafficked, due primarily to the country’s porous borders with its neighbors, the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) has said.

With just about 25 percent of the borders being “adequately manned,” many fear that the citizenry, especially those in the hinterlands, are being lured through trafficking at those porous borders.

On Wednesday, November 13, the LIS disclosed that out of 177 entry points into the country, its officers are only deployed at 46 entries, while 131 entry points are still “left vulnerable and routinely patrolled” by LIS Border Patrol Unit. Such situation might likely be contributing to the level of human trafficking in the country, LIS Head of Anti – Human Trafficking, Bolley B. Morlu, feared.

Morlu spoke at a high level inception meeting and training of trainers for Liberia Media Development (LMD) partners on traffic-In-Persons (TIPs) in Sinkor, a suburb of Monrovia. He said that there is a need to remedy the situation.

“The state of national security is at its lowest ebb—a situation that was exacerbated by the departure of personnel of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL),” he said.

Organized by Internews with financial support from USAID (United Sates Agency for International Development), the training brought together relevant government and private institutions, including the Liberia National Police, LIS, the Labor and Gender ministries and the media, to brainstorm on how TIPs can be halted or minimized.

The three–day exercise is aimed at helping to provide new skills that would educate the public on TIPs and law enforcement aspect of trafficking.

This comes after the United States’ State Department through its annual TIPs report last June placed Liberia on Tier 2 Watch List. This exposes how vulnerable the country is to traffickers; this slump in rank marks the third consecutive year for the country.

Regarding the report, Morlu expressed disappointment that the country was not doing well and has therefore been placed on Tier 2 Watch List for the third time.

“And because of this, we want to pledge our best endeavors and efforts in helping the national task force not to completely eliminate – because it is difficult – but to reduce the number of trafficking-related cases in the country,” Morlu said.

In June 2019 and for the third consecutive year, the U.S. State Department placed Liberia on the Tier 2 Watch List in its annual Trafficking in Persons report. This means the country is already on Tier Three watch list of the US, and risks slipping further down to Tier Three if stakeholders do not make critical efforts to reverse the trend.

TIPs, according to experts, occur in several forms, including taking family or other people’s children under your care through deception that they will be given better opportunities like schooling, when the actual intent is to later abuse their rights, use them for labor or as breadwinners, etc.

In the words of USAID Acting Mission Director, Rebekah Eubanks, the ranking reflects the U.S. Government’s assessment that the Government of Liberia is not fully in compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking that regulate U.S. foreign assistance.

“This is troubling in its own right for trafficking survivors, and this has important implications for the future of U.S. assistance to Liberia,” Eubanks said.

She called on the government to put into place and enforce policies that demonstrate increased efforts to combat human trafficking, investigate and prosecute traffickers, and protect survivors by early next year or Liberia will be downgraded to Tier 3 and lose access to all U.S. government non – humanitarian development funds.

Eubanks stressed that the government “must put into place and enforce policies that demonstrate increased efforts to combat human trafficking; investigate and prosecute traffickers, and protect survivors by early next year.”
She also warned that if something positive is not done, Liberia will be downgraded to Tier 3 and lose access to all U.S. government non-humanitarian development funds.

She assured that her organization is committed to working with our partners to help Liberia avert the risks of losing US funds.

The latest TIPs report, many believe, should now be a rallying point for local stakeholders to direct human efforts and resources toward the fight against TIPs, if the country should have access to funds from the U.S. to fight against trafficking.

In remarks, Labor Minister Moses Kollie said improving legal and policy frameworks, instituting administrative action by ensuring budget for the purpose of enhancing the work of task-force, improving prevention and awareness, protecting and caring for victims by training social workers are important steps that must be taken to salvage the country’s status in the next report – due to be released in March 2020.

“There are several required actions needed to be undertaken by the government and we must begin to act now,” Kollie said.

Also identifying partnerships for complementary budget to support the task-force as well as adopting zero tolerance against human trafficking, are important to averting the risks of falling to a lower tier.

“If we should perform, and look at these actions as a country, I am very certain that by March 2020 when the [US] State Department will be coming out with another quarter report, Liberia will be pretty seated,” he said.

With the most gruesome of all crimes, murder aside, there is no other violation of the human being that are dehumanizing than rape to TIPs, and as such, there is a need for people who commit both crimes to bear similar consequences or punishment, a stakeholder have said.

Currently, there is a harsher punishment for rape, which is a non-bailable offense, as compared to the crime of TIPs.
It is against this backdrop that Acting Gender Minister Madam Alice Howard said law on TIPs should be rated high, and that it should have tougher punishment enshrined on the country’s statute for traffickers just as it is with rapists in an effort to get rid of TIPs.

She called for collective effort to combat trafficking in persons in the same way as they did in the fight against Ebola so as to be able to get rid of trafficking in the country.

8 COMMENTS

  1. Looks like Liberia is a no man’s country. Anybody can walk to Liberia and calls himself a citizen.
    In fact some Guinea tribes are being declared as native to Liberia. The story goes on and on; adding to our tribal problems.
    Only the best educated Liberian can save that nation.

    God bless Liberia.

  2. Pete Curran,
    Do you consider yourself one of the best educated Liberians? Or do most people you know consider you as one of the best educated Liberians?
    Curran, it’s not as easy as you say it is. To consider oneself a Liberian, one has to be sharp-witted.

  3. Liberia should not be threatened with foreign aid withholding by the U.S. before our policy makers acknowledge the importance of securing the borders of the country. For any country in the world, it is paramount and a primary responsibility of the government to identity its national borders and protect those borders, period!

    For thirteen years and more, the CDC Party had some insight as to the kind of challenges it would inherit from the UP led government headed by Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Joseph Boakai if it indeed were to be succesful to win the presidential election of 2017. A porous border was one of those numerous headaches. This is in addition to rampant corruption, mismanagement of funds intended for national reconstruction (eg. individuals being paid $20,000 or $15,000 per month in government), and the missing money saga that began when the Weah administration was about to be ushered in to succeed the Sirleaf-Boakai administration. Weah’s first biggest mistake was to bypass the importance of auditing the Sirleaf-Boakai administration immediately upon taking the oath of office.

    Since then, he is being blamed for almost every mess he inherited by the opposition coalation (some of whom were co-conspirators in the mess created by the Sirleaf-Boakai administration). The blames even include the piles of trash in and around the city of Monrovia seen everywhere on the eve of Weah’s innauguration.

  4. I saw this coming years ago, I raised the alarm, but no one listened. The number of our troops are very low, both external and internal security apparatus are out numbered by this vulnerability. We need to act and do it fast!

  5. During the turbulent years of Johnson-Sirleaf’s presidency, a decision was made for Liberian immigration employees to be trained in Ghana. The idea was without doubt one of the stupidest! The immigration training was not free. Neither was the cost of flying Liberian immigration employees to Ghana free. First of all, a good immigration curriculum should have been set up in Liberia with the help of the Americans or other developed countries. The money that was used to fly immigration trainees to Ghana as well as the money that was paid to the Ghanaians for training, could have been used to put together a comprehensive immigration training manual. Had a good immigration training program been put in place, more money would have been saved in the Liberian Treasury and there would have been a possibility for more and more competent immigration employees to man Liberia’s porous borders.

    All of a sudden, we are hearing about the poor conditions of our borders. One wonders where those Ghanaian-trained immigration employees are. We’ve been put in an existential state of panic. Next, we’re unashamedly begging for help. It’s a shame that things don’t seem to be done right in Liberia all the time.

    The slow destruction of Liberia is not being done by foreigners. Of course, some foreign entities cannot be excused entirely. But, Liberians of higher rank often manipulate the country and its poor people because of their self-fish interests. For instance, it a road is approved by the government to be constructed, contactors from all works of the globe jettison on Liberia in order to bid on the contract. In the hands of the bidders are wads of money stacked up in “grips” to bribe. The bribe money does not go in the bank, but rather in the pockets of some mysterious people. You probably know who those mysterious people are.

  6. It is sad to add that Liberia had had several borders that are porous; like our national borders, which are mentioned in this article, some are physical and can be perceived with one or all of the five senses, while others are abstract and cannot be perceived by any of the five senses. Yet still, be it physical borders or abstract borders, the overall effects of border porosity have been regressive and counterproductive for Liberia.

    For example: I consider illiteracy as a porous border that has aided the country’s underdevelopment over the years. Though the country is naturally endowed with an abundance of natural resources, but their tapping and processing had only benefitted the foreign companies and their elites. A well educated and well trained society seeks ways to manage its resources and improve its living standards. Unfortunately, the leaders of the country have charted paths that are only geared towards enriching themselves, and not embarking on programs to enhance mass education, the training and development of a vibrant workforce.

    Another example: corruption, another porous border, has led to the grossest mismanagement of the country’s financial resources since its founding. And as a result, Liberia, a country considered as one of the oldest African republics falls on every negative world record when it is compared to other African countries that are not even as old and good governance. So, for many Liberians, the report about the failure of Liberia to meet the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s goals did not come as a total surprise. In fact, the president’s reactions to the news sounded like it was no big deal and that the nation should get on with business as usual.

    Our uniqueness, outlook on life, geographic location, interactions with each other and the outside world help to identify who we are. But it is sad to say that we might wake up one day and find out that the “Liberian identity” exists no more, because it is vulnerable and could cave in to the deadly effects of both mental and physical border porosity.

  7. Since this county’s founding close to two centuries ago, the idea of government, such as has devolved, is the seed bed from whence has risen our pitiful condition which rightly deserves scorn. Imagine a country that prides itself as being Africa’s oldest republic being at the same instance hopelessly found at the stuck at the very bottom in every single human development indicator as compared to many of her younger neighbors. Truth be told, good, wise, farsighted, honest and serious leadership in government can never ever produce what we have come to know as Liberia.

    The consequences of decades of very poor leadership has dug Liberia into an enormous pit. No amount of good will and assistance from friendly government, no matter how large, can save Liberia from itself.

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