STATEMENT ON THE RESCUE OF TRAFFICKED CHILDREN

A comprehensively well-designed rescue, reintegration and assistance program would not only assist and aid in the recovery of trafficked children but,also aid in reducing the vulnerability of trafficked individuals while creating for them economic and social opportunities.

In Ghana, there have been significant attempts by non-governmental organizations in the fight against trafficking. Many of such organizations missions are deeply rooted in rescuing children and reintegrating them back into society.Whiles rescue of victims is an important component of a comprehensive strategy to counter trafficking. A poor coordinated rescue mission would cause more harm and abuse to victims of trafficking (VoTs).

There have been numerous reports in the newspapers about the rescue of children from the Volta Lake by non-governmental organizations. Many have questioned the procedures used in the rescue mission. Human trafficking experts and members of parliament have complained about the poor nature of the rescue and alleged sale ofchildren.

In recent years, child trafficking has been on the rise in the Volta, Western and the three northern regions of Ghana. These regions have served as source, transit and destination points. However, in a few instances children have been trafficked across the border to neighbouring West African states. According to the Gambian National Intelligence Agency, some Ghanaian girls were smuggled into the country without official papers to work as sex slaves for their Ghanaian masters. According to sources, the girls were forced to "satisfy the sexual desires of older men" and some were working full-time as prostitutes within the 5,000-strong Ghanaian community . Again, Children from Ghana are reportedly trafficked to neighboring countries to work on farms or in fishing villages, and they are trafficked internally for similar purposes.

One boy from "Immuna", a fishing village in the Central Region of Ghana, was forced to work without pay for more than 5 years in a fishing community close to Yeji, located on the Volta River. He was one of hundreds of children rescued from forced labor in Yeji fishing communities in 2004 by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

It is estimated that more than 1,000 children are working as slave laborers on fishing boats across the country. The children are usually told that they are going to live with relatives who will care for them and send them to school; however, they end up working long hours on fishing boats. Boys frequently get stuck in nets at the bottom of the lake .

Whiles rescue of victims is an important component of a comprehensive strategy to counter trafficking; if it must be done, it must be done well.

The Eban Centre for Human Trafficking Studieswould recommend to Anti-Human Trafficking Non-Governmental Organizations to complywith the provisions of the Human Trafficking Act 2005 Act 695 as amended;Sections 14 and 15 in their trafficking rescue missions; the Human Trafficking Prohibition (Protection and Reintegration of Trafficked Persons) Regulations (Legislative Instrument 2219) promulgated in November 2015. Also, they should incorporate in their rescue missions the procedures as stipulated in the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) Manual. The manual is intended as a guide for all stakeholders and relevant persons responsible for combating human trafficking in Ghana, with an emphasis on child trafficking. It aims to improve the efficiency of all stakeholders to protect victims of human trafficking within Ghana, especially children.

The Centre would like to state emphatically that failure toadhere to the provisions of the Human Trafficking Act 2005 Act 695 as amended,renders an organization and non- governmental parties involved culpable to a criminal offense in the event of demiseof a victim(s) and/or abuse of the rights of a victim(s). Due to the failure of preventive counter trafficking measures, as a result of corruption and lack of proper implementation of law and policy, rescue, a post-preventive approach in countering child trafficking, has emerged as the most prevailing counter trafficking measure

Whiles rescue of victims are laudable and humanitarian, some rescue missions carried by Non-Governmental Organizations in Ghana are done without the authorization of an official from the Ministry in Gender, Children and Social Protection. This is in violation of the Human Trafficking Act 2005 Section 14 (1) (2). Which states that; (1) An authorized officer shall be responsible for the rescue of a trafficked person which may be carried out in collaboration with an organization. (2) Despite subsection (1) any government agency may rescue a trafficked person.

Again, shelters provided by rescues agents and organizations for rescued victims is often done without consultation with the appropriate authorities. This violates Section 15 (1) (2) of the Act which states that; 1) The Ministry shall provide temporary basic material support for the careand protection of a rescued victim of trafficking. (2) Despite subsection (1), a District Assembly shall be resourced from the Fund to protect the welfare of a trafficked person within its area of authority in consultation with the relevant government agencies and Organizations in the District.

Ending human trafficking in both its causes and consequences should be a matter of urgency for the government of Ghana.Ensuring partnership between NGOs and the state agencies in carrying out rescue and rehabilitation activities as stipulated in the Human Trafficking Act, should be a priority.
It is also imperative for the government and civil society organizations to rigorously campaign, educate and sensitize the public about the evils of child trafficking. Also, government should look at innovative ways of funding the human trafficking fund and also social protection programmes should be well targeted to those who genuinely needs assistance.
Rescue, Rehabilitation and Reintegration programmes without the involvement of government officials or agencies is a violation of the law.