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

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Forced Anal Testing Case to Appear Before Kenya Court

    Men challenge use of anal examinations to ‘prove homosexuality’; practice accomplishes nothing except to humiliate those subjected to them, according to Human Rights Watch

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora