News / Africa

Sierra Leone Targets Human Trafficking

Cora, a trafficking survivor, walks with her case manager and social worker in Sierra Leone. Credit: WHI
Cora, a trafficking survivor, walks with her case manager and social worker in Sierra Leone. Credit: WHI

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
It’s estimated that anywhere from 12-million to 27-million people around the world are victims of human trafficking. Humanitarian agencies say human trafficking is a 32-billion dollar a year industry. Sierra Leone is one of the many countries where it takes place.


World Hope International operates the Trafficking in Persons Recovery Center in Sierra Leone. It describes it as a holistic, high-trauma aftercare facility. WHI Vice-President of Programs John Lyon said that traffickers lure people by making false promises of jobs or a better life.

“In Sierra Leone, what we’re finding is two principle forms of trafficking – particularly in the labor trafficking area, as well as sex trafficking. It’s hard to put numbers around it. Every country in the world has problems finding highly accurate numbers of what actually is the scope of this problem,” he said.

Before you can treat victims of human trafficking, you have to find them.

“We had a case in northern Sierra Leone where a smaller mining firm got young kids to work in this mine. They were burrowing under the earth and some of the kids were actually killed in the mine. The kids were trafficked. They weren’t paid reasonable wages. Our program helped identify that case and brought it to the attention of the local authorities and helped prosecute the case with the Ministry of Mines, as well as with police,” he said.

Human trafficking not only comes by land, but by sea.

“We’ve also seen cases involving foreign fishing firms that come in and traffic girls to their ships for purposes of sex. We had one specific case just outside of Freetown where a foreign shipping firm kept docking near the village where we’d been working. And these girls would go to these ships. It came to light that the guys on the ship would come to shore and they’d say, you know, come over to the ship. We can get you a job. We can get you a better life. But what turned out was that they were just using these girls for sex.”

Lyon said the fishing vessel actually raised anchor and set to sea with several girls on board. WHI reported its findings to local authorities, who intercepted the ship and rescued the girls.

World Hope International has set up 58 parent groups in the country that watch out for possible human trafficking.

Lyon said, “In Sierra Leone, the local villages are really the structure that you need to work through to really accomplish any kind of large-scale goal. And so in these 58 villages, we’ve worked with the villagers to help educate and sensitize the villagers as to what human trafficking looks like. What does a human trafficker do when he wants to traffic somebody? Then once that’s been identified in a village they’ll report that to police or other NGOs or the Ministry of Social Welfare. So there’s that referral network that we’ve helped develop.”

The parent groups have helped identify a number of criminal activities, not just trafficking.

Once children or adults are freed from or escape from traffickers, Lyon said, they need help healing and reintegrating.

“We’ll provide treatment for the victim, education, health treatment, as well as mental health treatment. What makes our program very unique in Sierra Leone is that we don’t have a limit to how long that client can stay in our treatment facility. The client can stay as long as it takes for them to be treated and reintegrated into their community.”

Reintegration includes regular meetings by WHI staff with the children and their parents – ongoing monitoring to make sure they haven’t fallen victim to traffickers again – and possible jobs.

The U.S. State Department recently upgraded Sierra Leone’s status in its annual Trafficking in Persons report. Lyons says it’s an indication that WHI programs and similar efforts are having a positive effect.

You May Like

Beijing Warns Hong Kong Protesters, Cracks Down at Home

In suppressing protest news, China reportedly has arrested more than 20 people on the mainland who acted in support of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters More

Competing Goals Could Frustrate Efforts to Fight Islamic State

As alliances shift and countries re-define themselves, analysts say long-standing goals of some key players in Middle East may soon compete with Western goals More

Child Sexual Exploitation to Worsen in SE Asia

Southeast Asia’s planned economic integration is a key step for boosting the region’s productivity, but carries downsides as well More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid