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

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid