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    Human Trafficking Thrives, Barons Escape Justice - Africa

    Children are trafficked from their countries of origin to other countries or cities to do hazardous work such as forced labour, prostitution, domestic help, etc…


Human Trafficking Thrives, Barons Escape Justice

Vanguard (Lagos) August 29, 2004 Posted to the web August 30, 2004

    Funmi Komolafe

    During its annual conference of June, 2002, the International Labour Organization (ILO) declared June 12 World Day Against Child Labour. It was a day set aside for highlighting the global movement to eliminate child labour.

    This was after the ILO had adopted Convention 182 on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour. To demonstrate its committment to the elimination of child labour, the ILO set up a department, the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC). IPEC has worked in many countries including Nigeria. Nigeria has also benefitted from financial support towards the elimination of child labour from the United States Labor Department, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and other non-governmental organizations.

    However, the problem persists. Human trafficking, its social implications, efforts so far taken and the expectations of the international community is the focus of this article. IN June 2002, when the ILO declared the World Day Against Child Labour, the ILO at its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, presented two teenagers as evidence of child labour. A Nigerian girl, Comfort, who was a child prostitute, was one of those presented. Comfort who was born in Akwa- Ibom state was rehabilitated under the ILO/ IPEC programme.What then is the link between Child Labour and Human Trafficking? Studies have shown that human trafficking is the first stage of what results in child labour. Children are trafficked from their countries of origin to other countries or cities to do hazardous work such as forced labour, prostitution, domestic help, etc.

    The ILO in its report on Child Labour released during the 2004 conference stated that " Child domestic labour is a widespread and growing global phenomenon that traps as many as 10 million or more - mostly girls in hidden forms of exploitation, often involving abuse, health risks and violence". It identifies the worst form of child domestic labour as that which is " extremely hazardous to the child because of the tasks given, conditions of work or physical, emotional and sexual abuse; practices similar to slavery such as debt

    bondage or forced labour, and child domestic labour into which a child has been trafficked".

    Back home in Nigeria, prompted mainly by the activities of non-governmental organizations, the National Assembly passed the anti-trafficking law in June 2003 and established the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons ( NAPTIP). Beyond these, the federal government appears unwilling to do more to stop human trafficking. Headlines such as "Police rescue 64 children from suspected traffickers", "Royal father in child trafficking scandal", Police nab four human traffickers" appear in our newspapers almost on a daily basis.

    Trafficking in children

    All the stories confirm that some people have been arrested for engaging in the trafficking of children from one state to another within Nigeria and while others are taken across the borders. Recently, officials of the United States Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons were in Nigeria. The Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons monitors the efforts of governments and non-governmental organizations in many countries directed at putting an end to human trafficking.

    Its report on human trafficking in West Africa stated that thousands of children are trafficked from Benin Republic to Nigeria, Ghana, Gabon, Cote-D' Ivoire and Cameroon into forced labour situations which include, "agricultural labour, quarries, domestic service and prostitution".

    On Cameroon, the report states, " Cameroon is a destination country for Nigeria and Beninoise children trafficked to work in commercial agriculture, bars, auto parts shops, prostitution, or as street vendors.

    It is also a transit country for the movement of children between Nigeria and Gabon". Cote D' Ivoire - as stated in the report, " women are trafficked from Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia and Asian countries for sexual exploitation in Abidjan and other urban centres. Some of these women are forced to prostitute themselves to earn money to reimburse the traffickers, to buy their release so their traffickers can send them to final destinations, including Italy, the Netherlands and Scandinavia". The situation in Ghana, Togo, Niger and other countries are similar.

    For Nigeria, the report states, " Nigeria is a source, transit and destination country for trafficked women and children. Nigerians are trafficked to Europe, the Middle East and other countries for the purposes of forced labor, domestic servitude, and sexual exploitation. Nigerian girls and women are trafficked for forced prostitution to Italy, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Cote d' Ivoire and South Africa. Nigerian children are trafficked for involuntary domestic labour and street hawking within Nigeria and to countries in West and Central Africa.

    Nigeria is a destination country for Togolese, Beninese, Ghanian and Cameroonian children trafficked for forced labour".

    Beyond the report, child labour is visible on our streets. Children are mostly used as house helps. They also work as feet washers, hawkers, porters in major the markets. Others are bus conductors. The worst cases have been those of children murdered for ritually purposes but it would appear that Nigerians have not come to appreciate the negative effect of human trafficking and child labour.

    Human trafficking barons have been able to get away without the long arms of the law catching up with them. The governments; state and federal, have not provided medical facilities for victims. Once rescued, they are thrown back into the streets. Ms. JoAnn Schwider of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, who was in Nigeria recently, said the agency is not pleased with the failure of governments in Nigeria to punish offenders. Her words, "We are looking forward to government bringing traffickers to justice because laws are just on paper if they are not enforced. We were extremely disappointed with the lack of prosecutions. It is disappointing for the victims". Her colleague Mr. Nicholas Levingtow said "it is important for governments to educate people on the dangers of child trafficking". He said the agency understands that poverty and labour migration provides a shield for those who traffick in children but AP TIP is expected to create awareness .

    Levingtow said although Nigeria is not expected to solve the problem of child trafficking at once, the government should show commitment in terms of prosecution and prevention of trafficking so that traffickers can get the message that Nigeria is no longer a safe haven for traffickers. For instance, in Ghana, a report from the monitoring office based in Washington showed that two persons were recently sentenced to two year jail terms for attempting to sell a child.

    To create awareness on the dangers of child trafficking and child labour, the Ghana National Commission on Children conducted community gatherings nationwide to discuss the hazards of trafficking. That country's ministry of women and children affairs also introduced a programme, " Operation Bring Your Children Home" which was aimed at encouraging parents who sold their children to bring them home in exchange for business assistance, vocational training, credit facilities and assistance with school fees and uniforms. A Women' Development Fund was also established from which mothers of trafficked children received loans and business training to help them start small enterprises.

    To assist Nigeria tackle the problem of trafficking in persons, the United States Agency for International Development ( USAID) Nigeria office granted $500,00, to the International Office for Migration ( IOM) to support a shelter in Lagos for returned trafficking victims, mostly women deported from European countries.

    USAID mission director in Nigeria, Ms. Dawn Liberi, said the financial assistance was to provide shelter, training in skills for victims to enable them have economic alternatives and also to assist the victims return to school. She said Delta and Rivers State had also been identified as states to benefit from such assistance soon. Ms. Liberi like the officials from the Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons officials commended the efforts of Nigeria so far but emphasized that public awareness is very important if Nigeria is to effectively tackle the problem of human trafficking.

    By the assessment of the United States Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Nigeria is on the " Tier 2- Watch list", which means Nigeria has made significant efforts but she still needs to do more.

    The report states, " Nigeria is placed on the Tier 2 Watch List because of the continued significant complicity of Nigerian security personnel in trafficking and the lack of evidence of increasing efforts to address this complicity. Unlike other governments in the region, the Nigerian government does not face severe resource constraints, yet it commits inadequate funding and personnel to the fight against Nigeria's serious trafficking problem".

    Corrupt officials

    It was suggested that the government " should move quickly to implement the new law through vigorous high court prosecutions of corrupt officials and traffickers; it should also give adequate support to the new anti-trafficking agency and improve protection facilities or funding for NGO protection activities".

    However, the report commended some state governments for their efforts. Imo state government repatriated 29 victims from Gabon during the year while Edo and Abia states ran skills acquisition centres for trafficking victims. Akwa- Ibom state government worked with the government of Cameroon to effect the repatriation of Nigerian children trafficked to that country".

    The United States Agency noted that victims of trafficking from overseas are provided shelter but those trafficked within the country are usually kept in jails. The Agency prefers that all victims are provided decent shelter and medical facilities. It notes that " sex trafficking victims returned from abroad are usually forcibly tested for HIV/AIDS; the results of these tests are not kept confidential". It prefers that the results are kept confidential.

    Why the international concern on human trafficking and Child Labour?

    The International Labour Organisation during its June conference in Geneva, Switzerland released a report on a research conducted by its IPEC department titled " Helping Hands or Shackled Lives? Understanding child domestic labour and responses to it". The report highlights the exploitation of children as young as 10 on a global level. ILO director-general, Mr. Juan Somavia, said, "Millions of children work night and day outside of their family homes, toiling as domestic child labourers. Nearly all are exploited, exposed to hazardous work and subjected to abuse".

    As stated in the ILO report, "all domestic child labourers, without exception, are at risk because of the very nature of child domestic labour, which is not only widely accepted but often considered a "better" alternative for children from poor families". The author of the report, Dr. June Kane, said, these children are in the workplace, " even if that workplace is someone else's home- hidden from public view and labour inspection. The children are consequently at risk not only of exploitation but also of abuse and

    violence. It is vital that child domestic labour, so often neglected because the exploitation and abuse take place behind closed doors, receives attention".

    The director of the ILO/ IPEC programme, Mr. Frans Roselaers, described child domestic labour as " a waste of human talent and potential". He said " with the help of constructive and sustainable solutions from the ILO technical cooperation programme, governments, employers and workers worldwide stand ready to put an end to this abuse".

    However the ILO report states: "Not all child domestics end up without a future. ILO experience in Asia, Central and South America and Africa shows that with strong social and national institutions, and income or credit options for the parents, children under the minimum working age can be successfully removed from domestic labour".

    Financial assistance

    The United States Government through agencies such as USAID and the embassy's labour department has offered Nigeria technical and financial assistance to enable her tackle the twin problem of human trafficking and child labour.

    The American Secretary of State, Collin Powell, in his comments on the 2004 annual trafficking in persons report released in the United States, said the report " represents the collective work of our embassies, as well as foreign governments and NGO partners throughout the world who are committed to ending the scourge of slavery. We intend to use it as a guide in our efforts in the coming year to combat the trafficking of persons around the globe through improved laws, regulation, monitoring, enforcement and the protection of victims".

    Mr. Powell called human trafficking " modern-slavery".

    He said citizens of the U.S.A. who prey on foreign children around the globe for commercial sex are no longer beyond the reach of U.S. prosecution. Powell therefore called on governments all over the world to " join in the effort to prosecute these pedophiles through the application of similar laws".

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