Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 December 2014, 12:47 GMT

2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Liberia

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 27 June 2011
Cite as United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Liberia, 27 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e12ee68c.html [accessed 26 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, principally for young women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Most trafficking victims originate from within the country's borders and are subjected to domestic servitude, forced begging to support religious instructors, forced labor in street vending, on rubber plantations, and alluvial diamond sites, or sex trafficking. 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 wealthier relatives are vulnerable to forced labor or to a lesser extent, commercial sexual exploitation. Victims of cross-border 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. A small number of men, women, and children from Liberia are trafficked to Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria.

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. Despite these modest efforts, however, the government has not shown evidence of increasing efforts to prosecute and punish trafficking offenders and protect trafficking victims; therefore, Liberia is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. The Liberian government has never convicted a trafficking offender using its 2005 anti-trafficking law; it reported conducting two investigations of trafficking cases during the year, but did not initiate any prosecutions or convict any traffickers. The government did not provide training to law enforcement officials or magistrates, and many members of the government conflate kidnapping and smuggling offenses with human trafficking crimes. The Anti-Human Trafficking Taskforce held a workshop in November 2010 to establish a formal system for referring victims to legal services and protective care, and the draft is being circulated among the relevant government ministries for final adoption. The government did not allocate funds to the taskforce, which suspended its regular meetings between May 2010 and January 2011. The government undertook limited prevention measures.

Recommendations for Liberia: Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses and punish trafficking offenders; train law enforcement officials and magistrates to use the anti-trafficking law and to distinguish trafficking crimes from cases of human smuggling or kidnapping; allocate government resources or secure donor funding to support the operations of the Anti-Human Trafficking Taskforce, and ensure that this body meets on a regular basis; complete efforts to develop a formal referral system to connect victims to legal services and protective care; investigate possible collusion of government personnel in human trafficking; and increase efforts to educate the public about the dangers of human trafficking.

Prosecution

The Government of Liberia did not increase its minimal law enforcement efforts to combat trafficking during the reporting period. Liberia's 2005 Act to Ban Trafficking in Persons specifically prohibits all forms of transnational as well as internal trafficking. This 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 trafficking of children is sufficiently stringent, but the penalty for the trafficking of adults is not, and the prescribed penalties for sex trafficking are not commensurate with the prescribed penalty for rape. If a child is or at least two women are being transported for the purpose of prostitution, or if such transport results in injury to the victim, the maximum sentence for these aggravating circumstances is 20 years' imprisonment. The Women and Children Protection Section of the Liberian National Police reported it investigated two cases of trafficking during the year; however, it did not prosecute, convict, or sentence any trafficking offenders this year and has yet to convict a trafficker under the Act to Ban Trafficking in Persons. Four suspected trafficking offenders, arrested in 2009, were acquitted on charges of extortion, and five cases from the same year remained pending at the close of the reporting period. All new Liberian national police officers received training to report suspected trafficking cases to the Women and Children Protection Section, and 293 of these officers received this training during the reporting period. The government provided specialized training on the provision of services to victims and the investigation of trafficking offenses to the anti-trafficking units of the Women and Children Protection Section and the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization. There were no allegations of law enforcement complicity in trafficking cases during the reporting period and as such, no law enforcement officials were investigated, prosecuted, or convicted for involvement in human trafficking, though allegations of law enforcement and judicial officials' complicity in trafficking existed in previous years.

Protection

During the past year, the government did not provide protective services to victims though it coordinated with NGOs and international organizations to provide care to two victims, one of whom had been repatriated from Sierra Leone. No specialized services existed for trafficking victims in Liberia. Although the majority of trafficking cases occur within the country, no victims of internal trafficking were identified during the year, indicating that law enforcement officials did not adequately screen vulnerable populations, such as children in street vending or individuals in prostitution, to identify and assist trafficking victims. In November 2010, the government's Anti-Human Trafficking Taskforce conducted a workshop to develop a referral committee and to establish a formal process for referring victims to legal services and protective care. Documents produced from this workshop are still in draft form and have not been made public. During the reporting year, the government repatriated one boy from Sierra Leone and reunited him with his mother, and allowed one Nigerian woman who had been forced into prostitution to remain in Liberia. Her application for residency is currently being processed. 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 occurred. The government claimed to encourage victims to assist with the investigation and prosecution of traffickers; however, no prosecutions were initiated during the year.

Prevention

The Liberian government took modest efforts to prevent trafficking in persons throughout the reporting period. The Ministry of Labor ran a weekly radio show, which reached limited regions of the country and sometimes featured anti-trafficking actors from the community, in order to raise awareness issues related to labor trafficking. The Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force, the government's coordinating body to fight trafficking, met in May 2010 and January 2011, but suspended meetings in the interim due to a lack of government funding and internal issues. Since July, the government has registered approximately 62,000 children as part of a pilot birth registration and certification program in three counties, in an effort to reestablish many of the records that were lost in the country's civil war. In 2010, the government took modest efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex with the president's delivery of an anti-prostitution message on the radio.

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