The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says child trafficking is rampant in fishing communities along Ghana’s Lake Volta. The organization has been trying to rescue, rehabilitate, and reintegrate trafficked children. But are the children really being enslaved or the chores they do are part of a cultural tradition?
Eric Peasah is a Ghanaian and counter-Trafficking Field Manager for the IOM. He is in the United States to sensitize human rights activists about the trafficking of fishing children in Ghana. Peasah tells VOA English to Africa reporter James Butty the International Organization for Migration has been working to free the children because they face dangers and brutality.
“We are trying to rescue some children because they don’t go to school, and these children are given out to these fishermen to work in the fishing area, and they are being exploited. They eat once a day and they do jobs beyond their strength. Some of the children scoop water from the canoe as it goes. Other children also dive in the water on the lake because there are some stumps on the lake to entangle nets in the lake. So we think it is good to rescue these children, give them back to their parents and help the parents take care of these children,” he said.
Peasah said even though the children are not being held against their will, they are still children who are being made to do dangerous adult jobs.
“They are not being held against their will, but as a child they have no consent. What happens is that some of these children have uncles or relatives who come to these poor parents in fishing area, in the village to take them to go and stay with. When they go there, they in turn give the children to fishermen and collect some money from the fisherman, and the children go and work for the fisherman instead of going to school,” Peasah said.
He said the practice, though rooted in the traditional cultural belief whereby poor parents send their children to informal schools rather than conventional schools, has been abused.
“You know all around Africa children can stay with uncles, relatives and help them learn the trade. But this decision is being abused by some parents and some fishermen,” he said.
Peasah said while some people consider the practice as a way of life, some have frowned upon it.
“Some of the chiefs and some of the people in the communities frown against this issue because people give out the children because they are poor, and some parents do not know what the children go through when they give them out. And so once they realized what happen, they want to do something about it,” Peasah said.
He said the International Organization for Migration has been working with the Ghanaian government to help obtain the freedom of the children.
“We are working with the government’s Ministry of Women and Children, Social Welfare, UNICF, ILO, all of us are on board trying to first of all educate these fishermen and the parents about the dangers involved in using children in fishing. Secondly, the government has passed a law in 2005 to combat human trafficking. So IOM, together with the government, through ministry of women and children, we are helping those children who are there that they will bring them back home to attend school, and those who haven’t been recruited we educate them that this is not the right thing to do,” Peasah said.
Peasah said IOM is providing micro-assistance to some of the parents to enable them come out of poverty so that they can support their children in school.