Last Updated: Friday, 19 December 2014, 13:25 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Liberia

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Liberia, 19 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fe30cb52.html [accessed 22 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.

LIBERIA (Tier 2 Watch List)

Liberia is a source, transit, and destination country for young women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Most trafficking victims originate from and are exploited within the country's borders, and are subjected to domestic servitude, forced begging, sex trafficking, or forced labor in street vending, rubber plantations, and alluvial diamond mines. Traffickers operate independently and are commonly family members who may promise poorer relatives a better life for their children. Children sent to work as domestic servants for their wealthier relatives are vulnerable to forced labor or, to a lesser extent, commercial sexual exploitation. Orphaned children remain susceptible to exploitation, including in street selling and prostitution. A small number of Liberian men, women, and children are subjected to human trafficking in Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and the United States. Victims of transnational trafficking come to Liberia from Sierra Leone, Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire, and Nigeria and are subjected to the same types of exploitation as internally trafficked victims.

The Government of Liberia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The Liberian government has never convicted a trafficking offender using its 2005 anti-trafficking law, and it made only minimal efforts to protect trafficking victims and was inconsistent in referring victims to NGO service providers. It did provide limited anti-trafficking training to law enforcement officials, magistrates, and officers of the Liberia National Police's Women and Children's Protection Unit received additional training in women and children-related crimes like gender-based violence, domestic violence, and trafficking. The Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force finalized, but did not implement, standard operating procedures that establish the roles and responsibilities in coordinating and referring trafficking victims to care. In September 2011, the government enacted the National Children's Act – which reportedly addresses child trafficking, but the government did not implement the law during the reporting period. Many members of the government continue to conflate kidnapping and smuggling offenses with human trafficking crimes. In sum, the Government of Liberia did not demonstrate evidence of overall increasing efforts to address human trafficking; therefore, Liberia is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a second consecutive year.

Recommendations for Liberia: Start prosecuting trafficking offenses and convicting and punishing trafficking offenders; train law enforcement officials and magistrates to apply the anti-trafficking law and to distinguish trafficking crimes from cases of human smuggling or kidnapping; allocate funding for regular, continued activities of the Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force; finalize, implement and educate NGOs, government officials, law enforcement, and magistrates on the "Direct Assistance and Support to Trafficked Victims Standard Operating Procedures" such that these officials learn to proactively identify and provide protective services to trafficking victims; publish, disseminate, and implement the National Children's Act; and increase efforts to educate the public about the dangers of human trafficking.

Prosecution

The Government of Liberia demonstrated minimal anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. Liberia's 2005 Act to Ban Trafficking in Persons specifically prohibits all forms of transnational as well as internal trafficking. The law prescribes a minimum sentence of one year's imprisonment for the trafficking of adults and six years' imprisonment for the trafficking of children. The penalty for the sex and labor trafficking of children is sufficiently stringent, but the penalty for sex and labor trafficking of adults is not, nor is it commensurate with the prescribed penalties for other serious offenses, such as rape. In September 2011, the government passed the National Children's Act, which strengthens provisions of the 2005 Act to Ban Trafficking in Persons. The text of the National Children's Act has not yet been disseminated, as handbills and awaits implementation.

The Women and Children Protection Section of the Liberian National Police reported that it investigated one trafficking case during the year and referred it for prosecution. The government did not prosecute, convict, or sentence any trafficking offenders in 2011. The government has yet to convict a trafficking offender under the Act to Ban Trafficking in Persons. During the reporting period, 150 new national police officers received training on how to report suspected trafficking cases to the Women and Children Protection Section. While there were no official allegations of law enforcement complicity in trafficking during the reporting period, issues with bribery at border stations and a lack of capacity and corruption in the judicial system were reported.

Protection

During the past year, the government provided limited protective services to victims and was inconsistent in referring victims to NGOs for protective services. No specialized services exist for trafficking victims in Liberia. During the reporting period, the government identified only one trafficking victim, indicating that law enforcement officials have yet to consistently employ procedures for the proactive identification of trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as children in begging situations or individuals in prostitution. In November 2010, the Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force produced the "Direct Assistance and Support to Trafficked Victims Standard Operation Procedures," which establishes the basic roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders in coordinating referrals of trafficking victims to assistance. Although the standard operating procedures were thought to have been finalized, as of the end of the reporting period, a new process was underway to update and approve the standard operating procedures. The 2005 Act to Ban Trafficking in Persons absolves victims from responsibility for unlawful acts committed as a result of their being trafficked, and there were no reports that this practice was ignored in the case of the one victim identified during the year. The government continued to claim that it encouraged victims to assist with the investigation and prosecution of traffickers, although only one forced labor victim was identified and no prosecutions were initiated during the year.

Prevention

The Liberian government sustained modest efforts to prevent trafficking in persons throughout the reporting period. The Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force, the government's coordinating body, resumed meeting in September of 2011 following funding and internal issues during the prior year. When the Liberian National Police discovered two cases involving the potential exploitation of children relocated for educational purposes, officers embarked on an "investigative tour" in western Liberia to warn parents of the dangers of forced labor and exploitation among children entrusted to others for education. The Ministry of Labor continued to run anti-trafficking radio campaigns throughout the country, as well as billboard campaigns in the capitol city, Monrovia, in partnership with a foreign donor. The Ministry of Labor's National Commission on Child Labor, which is responsible for implementing and advocating for national policies to address the worst forms of child labor, investigated allegations of child labor used in street selling. The Child Protection Network, which is located in the Ministry of Gender and Development, conducted monthly meetings to coordinate and discuss child protection, labor, and trafficking issues and lobbied legislators for the passage of the National Children's Act. In March 2012, the government launched a public dialogue campaign to better understand why young girls and women may be drawn into or exploited by the commercial sex trade.

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