African ministers, experts, and representatives of multi-lateral organizations are expected to adopt an action plan to re-invigorate the fight against the growing incidence of people trafficking in sub-Sahara Africa. The session is seeking a regional approach in dealing with the problem.
Speakers at the opening session of the regional conference on human trafficking were united in their expression of concern over the rapidly expanding problem in the region.
The executive secretary of the Economic Community of West African States, Mohammed Ibn Chambas, gave an insight into the current trend.
"The movement of trafficked people within, through, and from the sub-region is complex," he said. "Children are moved within and between countries to work as domestics, in agriculture, or in the markets. Women are tricked with promises of good jobs abroad into forced prostitution in Europe or the Middle East. Many people seeking gainful employment fall into the hands of unscrupulous recruiters who use violence to gain control of them, once they are removed from their home villages."
Chambas adds that an estimated 200,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked in the region.
"This offense is a crime so serious, so pervasive, and so dynamic, that only a coordinated and vigorous effort of all states will be able to address it successfully," he explained.
International Labor Organization (ILO) representative, Lee Sweptson, was particularly concerned that there were as many as 50 million working children in sub-Sahara Africa, representing the highest proportion of children engaged in economic activities of any region in the world. He says the ILO considers trafficking in children "one of the gravest violations of human rights in the world today."
"Children and their families are ensnared by the empty promises of the trafficking networks - for a better life, for an escape route from poverty," he said.
Ministers from 26 west African and central African countries are hoping to adopt a multi-lateral agreement to boost the campaign against people trafficking.
The meeting also aims to encourage countries to strengthen their legislation against human trafficking and intensify national response to the problem.
Poverty, and in some cases, cultural practices are some of the factors driving the phenomenon in one of the world's poorest regions.