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Trafficked to the Gulf region, rescued victim tells her story

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The menace of human trafficking has become a rewarding business in Ghana and beyond, with the underworld collaboration fuelling its sophistication and rendering it difficult to fight.

The vulnerability of the unemployed teeming youth therefore makes it a good fodder for fake employment agents to exploit them for personal gains, taking cognizance of the global unemployment situation and that of Ghana, in particular.

Government’s action to stem the tide and bring sanity to the practice has temporarily placed moratorium on the business of agents, either licensed or otherwise to review the mode of licensing and emerging issues of human trafficking .

According to Madam Otiko Afisa Djaba, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Welfare, some 52 registered employment agencies have been licensed to find job placements for prospective clients within the country and abroad.

Beside this, she said her outfit and related Ministries have uncovered the activities of over 300 “Galamsey Employment Agencies” providing the illegal platforms around which many unsuspecting women are lured into trafficking. These conduits have become the avenues for the high frequency of abuses and inhumane treatment meted out to victims and mostly leading to some of them losing their lives.

These syndicates, who have recruited their victims through subterfuge, make lots of money from the large hordes of clients and transfers made into the Gulf region, with the collaboration of international slave masters and agents “renting services” of victims as sexual slaves and escorts, house helps and nannies.

The notoriety of this syndication is so compact that the employment agents seemed to be deploying many strategies and techniques to outwit the authorities with media reports suggesting that the agents have resorted to the use of landed borders to actualize their nefarious business following the scrutiny by immigration officials and state security apparatus at the ports.

A 26-year-old, victim (name withheld), who went through a cyclical experience and only succeeded in returning to Ghana after her mother paid off her ransom totaling $2,000, spoke of her ambition to work as a nurse, in the United Kingdom, and how her hope was dashed after the agents deceived her and others and sent them into Iraq to work as house helps.

She said an Assistant Principal of her former school, Christina Holdbrook of New Crystal Healthcare Institute, at Ashaiman, disclosed the recruitment deal to work in the UK to her.

As if manna dropping from the heavens, the victim said the mention of the UK destination and work as nurse blew her mind and she quickly informed her mother to find the money, more so, when such opportunity came from her principal. That however, became the beginning of nearly, a journey of no return.

It was a journey into an underworld of sophisticated human trafficking web of inhumane servitude and abuses.

Subsequently, she said one Dr Redeemer Amegbo, a Director of I-Care Healthcare College, at Afienya, was introduced as one of the facilitators of the recruitment, whom she paid GH¢ 2,800 for medical examination and other paper works.

She alleged that one Evans Eli Mawuli, who is an employment agent was introduced as the man, on whose chest all the deals lie and who, after some days drew her attention to the completion of departure documentations, which was fixed for October 17, 2016.

Dr Amegbo, then lifted the victim from a spot known as “Under Bridge” at Ashaiman for the Kotoka International Airport, where she was told about the change of destination to Istanbul, Turkey, temporarily, to be transported later to the UK, which never happened.

The victim said she spent three months enduring inhumane treatments and abuses in servitude on daily basis until she was saved and returned to Ghana on December 15, 2016.

Furthermore, she said the flight from the Kotoka International Airport landed at the Erbil International Airport, in Iraq, where her passport was stamped visa on arrival. She said she saw about 50 other trafficked victims who were on the same flight from Ghana disembark

She narrated that one Mohamed picked her and two others up, after their passports were seized.

“After we left, I have no idea where the others were taken to,” she said.

She added that her fears became heightened when Mohamed disclosed at the Agency’s office in Iraq, where she met some Ghanaians speaking Twi – that the actual purpose of their contract was for them to serve as house helps and not the geriatric duties that were advertised.

She added that she was ushered into work immediately, at an apartment of six occupants, where she provided slave labour and the consequential daily demands for sex becoming the norm.

The victim said luck however shone on her when a boy in the apartment provided her with the password of the wi-fi connections, which she only utilised undercover to communicate with her mother back home.

She said she registered her discontentment to the trio (Holdbrook, Amegbo and Evans) for the inhumane treatment and turn of events following, but they blocked her from communicating with them on the Whatsapp platform. Holdbrook, she said, warned her to “mind her business and never disturb her again.”

The victim narrated that her mother, exasperated by the developments consulted the police and the processes for her return was bargained with the condition that she refunded all the monies spent on her travel expenses, including the signing on fees.

The resultant developments led to the arrest of Holdbrook and Amegbo, who were granted police enquiry bail, but Evans and his girlfriend, who could be described as main architects are yet to be apprehended.

The victim indicated that she now makes constant visits to the CID headquarters where her she repeatedly get the impression that her efforts to receive justice is getting remote. There are also frequent cancellations of appointments to the CID.

According to this victim, she believes that her case is just the tip of a well-orchestrated international syndication that trades in human beings to various destinations for money.

In her testimony, she said human trafficking was rife and nationals of Ghana, Somalia, Nepal and Indonesia have been traded in hordes to these destinations, most of who die or are killed in the process.

“I am surprised that over four months after this case was reported, no major in-roads have been made to round up all the syndicates and I wonder if in a single trip 50 women were trafficked, what will happen in the same period of Police inactivity,” she asked.

She “warned prospective victims that they might not be that lucky like her. Human trafficking, a modern-day slavery is real. There is no place like home.”

A source at the Police Anti-Human Trafficking Unit, who confirmed this incident said the Police considers human trafficking a heinous crime and would deploy all arsenals towards expediting prompt action in getting to the bottom of the incident.

Dr Amegbo and Holbrook in separate telephone conversations did not deny knowledge of the incident but stated categorically that their intent was genuine and not based on malice.

Dr Amegbo indicated that one Mabel Otchere, a former student of I-Care, domiciled in Turkey, in a conversation expressed the willingness to assist students from his college to be recruited into well-paid jobs abroad, as she was a beneficiary of such a deal courtesy of Evans.

He attested to facilitating the travel of the victim and the money collected from her was for documentation processes including medical examinations, which was done at the Manhean Polyclinic with Evans completing the rest.

The Director said he met Evans in person only once, when he came to collect the victim’s papers for processing and in a curious conversation said he owned an employment agency for recruiting prospective graduates, which is dully registered and was ready to do business with him (Dr Amegbo) but, he has been saddened by the turn of events.

Holdbrook alleged that she only introduced the victim to Dr Amegbo after he announced at a National Vocational and Technical Institute (NVTI) workshop of his readiness to help graduates land juicy jobs abroad.

The victim is therefore appealing to the President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo through the Ministries of Attorney-General and Justice, Gender and Social Protection, the Interior, Foreign Affairs and the International Police (INTERPOL) to assist her and several others still in servitude in various destinations in the Middle East and Asia to be assisted to return home.

This writer’s information is that an attempt to price the case for an out-of- court settlement hit a snag on April 25, 2017, as suspects and victim failed to converge on the asking tag price from the victim’s mother.

 

By Maxwell Awumah

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