36 girls saved from black migration in Gabon are sent home for a new start

36 girls saved from hidden migration in Gabon are sent home for a new start

Fanja Saholiarisoa
Les filles rapatriées
Michel Ikamba
30 July 2021

Stories told by children in Arc En Ciel transit center and the state-owned transit center in Agondje district are faces of local human trafficking . They are usually recruited by strangers or people familiar with their parents in their country of origin and their villages. They were taken to the capital cities of countries like Benin, Togo, Niger, Burkina Faso, Niger or Nigeria or to other departure point such as Calabar area in Nigeria

They are then forced to take smuggled boats made of wood to Gabon and the trip usually takes 7 to 10 days by sea until they reach the coasts of Gabon by avoiding the coasts of Cameroun and Equatorial Guinea.

However, the smugglers abandoned their guests or the migrants on the shore of Gabon’s island Pointe Denis or in Akanda district and that there’s where usually migration services catch the boats and take migrants to transit centers.

That is the story of 36 girls who recently arrived in Gabon in September 2020. UNICEF provided temporary home for those girls and gave food and medical treatment as well as psychosocial support.

During six months during their stay, UNICEF collaborated with International organization for Migration (IOM) to investigate about their girls ‘home and villages with the help of UNICEF staff in Togo, Benin Niger and Burkina Faso. At the same time, social services in the countries of origin helped a lot to repair the trauma faced during this voyage and help a lot with translation in local dialects as most of the girls could not properly speak French.

UNICEF helped identify children and assisted the government with psychosocial support. After six months, the 36 girls were departed back to their homes after long collaboration between UNICEF, IOM, government and other stakeholders.

Once home, these girls will benefit from vocational training with 200 euros grant from IOM to set up a business plan in their countries of origin in order to get some empowerment and start a new life.

According to Michel Ikamba, UNICEF Gabon child protection specialist, the issue remains tough for Gabon government and organizations working on immigration. As human trafficking in Gabon is also seen by the govt and agencies working on the issues of the human rights as part of mixed migration. Women, men and children who are moving to Gabon from western African and other African countries are firstly job seekers.