Representatives of national focal institutions from ECOWAS member states have converged on Accra to strategize on how to fight trafficking in persons.
Participants in the three-day meeting would also assess the implementation of a plan of action which commenced in 2018 and ended in 2022, among other initiatives at the
15th annual ECOWAS Regional Network of National Focal Institutions against Trafficking in Persons Plus review meeting.
The meeting has since 2014, been funded by the EU through the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), under the framework of the “Support to free movement and migration in West Africa” project.
The ECOWAS action plan encourages member states to engage in the establishment of operational links between actors in the protection sector and the criminal justice system and agree on procedures that govern the referral of victims across borders.
The West Africa region has long experienced high levels of regular and irregular migration, which has created a market for traffickers.
This year’s World Day against Trafficking in Persons is slated for July 30, 2023, on the theme: “Reach every victim of trafficking, leave no one behind”, to remind the public of the impact trafficking has on victims and societies.
The Deputy Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Francisca Oteng Mensah, said at the opening of the meeting yesterday, that “no justification or account can erode the emotional, psychological and physical trauma that victims of trafficking are left with”.
She, therefore, urged national institutions to prioritize the safety and survival of rescued victims of human trafficking to reduce the vulnerabilities of such victims.
The deputy minister entreated the participants to help identify clear referral mechanisms and pathways for handling cross-border victims of trafficking.
The deputy minister said that the country was in its second phase of implementing a national plan of action for the elimination of human trafficking (2022-2026).
The Head of the Traffic in Persons Unit at ECOWAS, Olatunde Olayemi, said the annual meeting was a flagship activity that helped the commission to “know how well we are doing and where the problems might be”.
“In recent times we have heard reports of trafficking of males for forced labor where young men are sometimes trafficked or locked up and made to engage in computer scamming.”
“We do have a significant amount of trafficking of adult women for sexual exploitation all over the region, with children also being trafficked for servitude and labor, including mining,” he said.
Mr. Olayemi added that there was also trafficking in persons outside of West Africa through North Africa, and Central Africa heading towards the Mediterranean routes to Europe, in the Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia, among others.
The Head of Cooperation of EU Delegation to Ghana, Massimo Mina, said the collective effort of stakeholders would go a long way towards building a safer and more secure space across the region where justice prevailed and human dignity was respected.