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2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Sierra Leone

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 27 June 2011
Cite as United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Sierra Leone, 27 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e12ee4d7.html [accessed 21 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Sierra Leone (Tier 2)

Sierra Leone is a source, transit, and destination country for children and women subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Victims originate largely from rural provinces and refugee communities within the country, and are recruited to urban and mining centers for the purposes of exploitation in prostitution, domestic servitude, and forced service or labor in petty trading, portering, rock-breaking, street crime, and begging. Trafficking victims may also be found in the fishing and agricultural sectors or are subjected to forced prostitution or forced labor through customary practices such as forced and arranged marriages. Sierra Leoneans voluntarily migrate to other West African countries, including Mauritania and Guinea, the Middle East, and Europe, where they are subsequently subjected to forced labor and forced prostitution. Sierra Leone may also be a destination country for children trafficked from Nigeria, and possibly from Liberia and Guinea, for forced begging, forced labor, and prostitution.

The Government of Sierra Leone does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the year, the government convicted six persons for trafficking-related crimes and imposed adequate sentences in each case, though it did not provide sufficient details to determine whether these cases constituted trafficking. Awareness of existing anti-trafficking legislation remained weak, and trafficking cases may have been prosecuted under other legal statutes or settled out of court. While the government acknowledged that trafficking is a problem in the country, it did not allocate adequate financial or human resources to provide protective services to victims or to educate the population about the dangers of trafficking. The National Trafficking in Persons Task Force submitted a budget request in late 2010, but it had not been approved by the end of the reporting period.

Recommendations for Sierra Leone: Increase penalties prescribed under law for sex trafficking offenses; strengthen efforts to prosecute, convict, and punish trafficking offenders using the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2005; in collaboration with civil society organizations, train police and prosecutors to identify, investigate, and prosecute trafficking cases; ensure that draft anti-trafficking legislation provides a clear definition of trafficking and does not conflate it with the separate crime of migrant smuggling; include funding for anti-trafficking activities in the national budget and begin allocating funds accordingly through the appropriate government structure, such as the National Trafficking in Persons Task Force; ratify the 2000 UN TIP Protocol; train law enforcement officers and social workers to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as women in prostitution, unaccompanied minors, or undocumented migrants, and provide them protective services; identify and donate a suitable government structure to an NGO to operate a shelter for trafficking victims; improve efforts to collect data on anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts and victim assistance; and in collaboration with civil society organizations, increase efforts to raise public awareness about the dangers of trafficking.

Prosecution

The Government of Sierra Leone demonstrated limited anti-trafficking law enforcement progress over the last year, primarily by convicting six individuals for crimes related to human trafficking, compared with two such convictions during the previous year, and by drafting new legislation to replace its current anti-trafficking act. Sierra-Leone's Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2005 prohibits all forms of human trafficking and prescribes a maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment or a fine of approximately $4,650 for both sex and labor trafficking offenses. These penalties are sufficiently stringent, but not commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes, such as rape. During the year, the National Trafficking in Persons Task Force drafted new anti-trafficking legislation, and submitted it to the Cabinet for review in November 2010. Members of the Task Force reported the bill's primary purpose is to establish a national anti-trafficking agency and guarantee dedicated government funding for its activities; the draft bill reportedly also increases prescribed penalties for trafficking offenses, requires the provision of protective services for victims, and may expand the definition of trafficking to include non-trafficking crimes. The government reportedly investigated 35 cases related to trafficking, but did not provide adequate details to determine which, if any, involved actual human trafficking offenses. Of these cases, 12 were dismissed due to lack of evidence or out-of-court settlement, six resulted in convictions, and 17 remained pending at the end of the reporting period. The government did not provide information about the status of three cases left pending at the close of the previous reporting year. Sentences prescribed for convicted offenders were sufficiently stringent and ranged from six to 22 years' imprisonment. The government did not provide specialized training on investigating or prosecuting human trafficking offenses, but the Sierra Leone police used manuals produced by an NGO to train all of its approximately 500 new recruits to identify trafficking victims. There were no reports of government officials investigated, prosecuted, or convicted for involvement in trafficking or trafficking-related criminal activities during the reporting period.

Protection

During the year, the Sierra Leonean government sustained limited efforts to protect child trafficking victims, the most significant population of victims in the country, though it did not protect adult victims. It did not undertake proactive measures to identify victims among vulnerable populations, such as women in prostitution, unaccompanied minors, or undocumented migrants. The government relies on its close partnerships with NGOs and international organizations to provide services for trafficking victims. The government reported knowledge of 35 victims identified by NGOs during the reporting period, including 24 children and 11 adults. Identified victims were referred to the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender, and Children's Affairs (MSWGCA), and this ministry and NGOs referred an unknown number of child victims to NGO-run orphanages, reformatory schools, or schools for street children, as no dedicated facility for trafficking victims existed. During the year, the government offered to donate a building to an international organization for use as a shelter, but the organization determined the building was inadequate and opted to seek its own funding to build a shelter. In 2010, the government repatriated seven children and 11 adults from Mauritania, all of whom had been fraudulently recruited to study in Koranic schools, but were instead subjected to conditions of forced labor. It also assisted in the repatriation of eight Sierra Leonean child trafficking victims from Guinea and identified four victims of cross-border trafficking inside Sierra Leone.

There were no reports that victims were detained, fined, or jailed for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked; however, the government did not make adequate efforts to identify trafficking victims, which may have led to some victims being treated as offenders. Victims were not encouraged to participate in the investigation of cases, and police cited victims' failure to appear in court as a common reason for the dismissal of cases.

Prevention

The government displayed limited progress to prevent trafficking during the reporting period. The inter-ministerial National Trafficking in Persons Task Force, comprised of representatives from government ministries, NGOs, international organizations, and diplomatic missions to Sierra Leone, met bi-monthly during the year and reportedly began creating an anti-trafficking law enforcement database within the MSWGCA and updating the National Action Plan for 2011. The government took no discernible efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. The government did not provide Sierra Leonean troops anti-trafficking training prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions, though such training was provided by a foreign donor. Sierra Leone is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

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