Human trafficking: US warns Ghana could be downgraded, lose millions in aid

independence-arch-ghanaGhana has been found not to be doing as much as the country should to curb the disturbing phenomena of human trafficking, and that could lead to a downgrade and a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in US development aid assistance.

The 2016 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report which includes narratives for 188 countries and territories, including the United States, classifies Ghana as a Tier 2 Watch List country, meaning that the government does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons and failed to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in the past year.

The goal of the report is to stimulate action and create partnerships around the world in the fight against modern slavery.

According to the US authorities, any country ranked on the Tier 2 Watch List for two consecutive years must be downgraded to Tier 3 in the third year unless it shows sufficient progress to warrant a Tier 2 or Tier 1 ranking. Ghana has been on Tier 2 for two consecutive years.

“A Tier 3 ranking indicates a government does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons and is not making significant efforts to do so,” a press release from the US Embassy in Accra, copied to has said.

The release notes that Ghana could be subject to an automatic downgrade to Tier 3 in the 2017 TIP Report.

“If Ghana is downgraded to Tier 3 in 2017, it will become subject to restrictions on US assistance, including development aid and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact. The United States currently provides more than $140 million per year in development aid to Ghana, while the MCC Compact is worth more than $498 million.

Other US programmes, including assistance in the areas of law enforcement; capacity building for state prosecutors; security and military assistance; and increasing the capacity of the Electoral Commission, would all be subject to restrictions,” the release said.

The report recognizes that the Ghanaian government has done some work, but not enough in tackling human trafficking.

It takes not that the government has investigated and prosecuted some trafficking and trafficking-related crimes, including allegedly fraudulent labor recruiters and suspected child traffickers; conducted public awareness activities aimed at informing the public about the risks of human trafficking; and provided funding to support two meetings of the Human Trafficking Management Board.

“However, key factors in Ghana’s Tier 2 Watch List ranking include no demonstrable increase in prosecution efforts or assistance to victims; zero trafficking convictions in 2015; a decrease in the number of victims identified in the past year; inadequate funding and training for law enforcement and prosecutors; inadequate funding for victim protection and support services; insufficiently stringent penalties for trafficking; and reports of increased of corruption and bribery in the judicial system, which hindered anti-trafficking measures,” the report said.

“The Trafficking in Persons report recognizes the trafficking problems we all know exist in Ghana—forced labor, child labor and sex trafficking of children and adults. It is important to note, however, that it is not the quantity of trafficking in any given country that is being evaluated. Trafficking exists everywhere, including in the United States. Rather, the ranking assesses the efforts made by government to prevent trafficking, prosecute criminals and protect victims.

“Unfortunately, despite some investigations and awareness campaigns, the government of Ghana did not demonstrably commit to anti-trafficking efforts in 2015. As such, Ghana is placed on the Tier 2 Watch List for the second consecutive year. Ghana must increase the resources it invests in anti-trafficking enforcement and protection activities and track and report the results of its efforts. This includes investigating trafficking cases; prosecuting and convicting traffickers; and providing assistance, protection and care for adult and child victims of trafficking,” the US Ambassador to Ghana, Robert P. Jackson, was quoted as saying in the release.

The US government pointed out that it has invested about $38 million in various communities and projects to reduce child labour, empower cocoa growing communities and in fisheries; to enhance working conditions for artisanal miners and fishers.

“No one wants Ghana to slip to Tier 3 next year,” said Ambassador Jackson. “Not only is such a move catastrophic for the victims of trafficking, but it would also be disastrous to our development efforts in all areas: agriculture, education, security, governance, health and economic growth. The government of Ghana must increase its anti-trafficking efforts, for the immediate benefit of Ghanaian trafficking victims and the long-term benefit of all Ghanaians,” Jackson warned.

Meanwhile, an estimated 103,300 people in Ghana – about 0.33 per cent of the population – are in modern slavery, with 85 per cent in forced labour and 15 per cent in forced marriage, according to the Global Slavery Index 2016 by the Walk Free Foundation.

When the Foundation published the very first Index in 2013 an estimated 170,000 to 190,000 persons living in Ghana were being enslaved.

The Global Slavery Index 2013 which was released in October, showed that Ghana was the 18th-worst slave country in the world out of 162 countries.

In the 2016 Index the foundation says the main industries of concern for forced labour in Ghana are farming and fishing, retail sales, manual labour and factory work.

It also said an estimated 21,000 children work fishing along the Volta Lake and its environs.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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