The International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Accra, Ghana, working in close collaboration with Ghana’s Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MoGCSP) this week organized the safe return of 13 child survivors of trafficking to their home country, Côte d’Ivoire.
The youths, now reunited with their families on March 15, had been exploited by traffickers on farms in Ghana’s Volta Region after being brought to the country by traffickers.
“” Regardless of where someone comes from, victims are victims, and must be given the best support possible,” said Abena Annobea Asare, Head of the Human Trafficking Secretariat of the MoGCSP.
“I am glad to see this day come to pass where all stakeholders have worked as a team to ensure the successful return. The most rewarding thing is to see success in the face of adversity.”
The youths — all boys aged nine to 19 — were brought to Ghana from Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso under the pretext of studying Quran. And Imam allegedly exploited the children as farm workers, some for up to ten years according to Ghanaian authorities. Exact timelines are difficult to trace as children as young as three were trafficked, and they do not know the day, month or year they came to Ghana.
Based on a tip, the Ghana Police Service (GPS) undertook a rescue. One alleged trafficker has been arrested and is being prosecuted.
Following the rescue mission, the boys were referred to a shelter for child victims under the auspices of the MoGCSP in Accra. They received counseling, medical screening, and further rehabilitation assistance. One boy who contracted COVID-19 has been quarantined in the government shelter and will go home once he tests negative.
IOM Ghana reports that strong coordination and collaboration between IOM, the Ivorian Consulate, the Burkinabé Embassy in Ghana and the Government of Ghana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and MoGCSP enabled these children’s safe return.
Return flights — including purchase of tickets, clothing, medical screening and COVID-19 tests — were funded via the Child Protection Compact (CPC) project under the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in People (J/TIP) and a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Government of Ghana and IOM.
Upon arrival in Abidjan, the children were welcomed by their families, who had been traced by IOM Côte d’Ivoire and national authorities. The children and their families will continue to receive reintegration support in the framework of IOM prevention and protection activities.
Child trafficking remains an issue in Ghana and across international borders, especially in the fishing industries, but also in the farming sector. Children of various ages and nationalities may fall victim to perpetrators.
Over the past years, IOM Ghana has worked closely with the MoGCSP and the Ghana Police Service (GPS) to counter the issue of child trafficking in the country.
The Standard Operating Procedures to Combat Human Trafficking in Ghana, with an emphasis on child trafficking, had been developed by IOM in partnership with the MoGCSP and were launched in October 2017.
Subsequently, officers of the GPS and the Department of Social Welfare (DSW) were trained to strengthen the investigation of trafficking cases, as well as to be better able to address the needs of victims once rescued.
“The rescue mission of the Ivorian and Burkinabé children is evidence that the existing systems are functioning,” said Abibatou Wane-Fall, IOM Ghana Chief of Mission. “But a lot more needs to be done to prevent child trafficking in the first place. Together with our partners, IOM undertakes major efforts to raise awareness of the issue in the areas and sectors of concern.”