FREETOWN, 18 August 2005 - UNICEF welcomes the signing of the Anti-Human Trafficking Act by the President of Sierra Leone on 12th August 2005. The Act defines human trafficking as an offense and criminalises all forms of human trafficking. The issue of trafficking in persons, particularly of women and children who are the most vulnerable, has been of great concern in post-conflict Sierra Leone. UNICEF therefore hopes that the Act will help the Government of Sierra Leone and its partners to more appropriately respond to issues of prevention, rapid response for identification and prosecution of offenders, as well as the provision of relevant reintegration services for victims.
Prior to the signing, the Trafficking-in-Person Task Force, comprising the Sierra Leone Police, the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, International and National NGOs, Human Rights and Civil Society Groups, the United States Embassy and UNICEF, served as a catalyst to advocate for the passage of the Act. The Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, chaired by Hon. Dr. A. Fofana, in collaboration with the Task Force and financial support from UNICEF, undertook regional consultations on the draft Act in four districts; Western Area, Koinadugu, Pujehun and Kono. These consultations raised awareness on human trafficking and incorporated the contributions of stakeholders into the draft Act.
Trafficking of children links all countries and regions in a web of international crime and grave violations of human rights. Victims of trafficking often come from poor families who do not have economic opportunities. Children who have minimal education, lack vocational skills or have few prospects for development opportunities are most at risk. These factors, when compounded by gender, racial or ethical discrimination, or insecurity caused by armed conflict and civil strife, create the ideal environment for trafficking networks to thrive.
In Sierra Leone, there have been indications that children are being trafficked both within the country, usually from rural to urban areas, as well as across borders. These children are being exposed to a range of exploitative practices that include: child labour; sexual exploitation; military conscription; early marriage and illicit adoption. As such, the survival and development of these children are threatened, and their rights to education, health and protection are denied.
UNICEF therefore calls upon the Government, not only to swiftly commence the implementation of the Act of trafficking, but also to address with a great urgency the underlying causes such as: poverty, low school enrolment, children without caregivers, lack of birth registration, inequality of women and girls. Unless these underlying causes are addressed, the more direct measures to stop trafficking will have limited success.
The signing of the Act is an excellent start in combating trafficking, but there is indeed much more to be done to make the elimination of Child Trafficking a reality. “UNICEF is committed to assisting the government in addressing the many challenges ahead. Already a country wide assessment is being undertaken to shed more light on the problem of trafficking in children in Sierra Leone”.
For further information, please contact:
Alison Parker, UNICEF – Sierra Leone,
email@example.com Tel: +232 - 76 – 601310