A delegation of the Liberian government headed by Madam Yvette Freeman, Deputy Minister for Administration, Ministry of Labour, along with the IOM Country Director for Liberia, Mr. Mohammed Diallo, has been held with three Ivorian Ministers of Government on Human Trafficking. All three meetings were held with Ivorian Minister of Gender and Children; Minister of Labour and Minister of Solidarity and Fight Against Poverty focusing on the fight against trafficking in persons.
All three Ministers from these relevant Ivorian Ministries have all expressed commitment to join forces with Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea to convene an MRU Summit on Trafficking-in-Persons in order to formulate strategies to defeat human trafficking in the region, before expanding same across ECOWAS region.
During the first meeting on Tuesday, February 8, 2022, the Liberian official met with Madame Nasseneba Toure, Minister of Gender, Ivory Coast. After exchange of greetings and pleasantries, the Ivorian Minister of Gender shared Liberia’s concerns regarding the increase in crimes of human trafficking, stating that it is a national and cross-national phenomenon that is happening in West Africa.
She said hosting an MRU summit on trafficking in person is a good initiative for recent surge in trafficking of children and that of much grave concern as the trafficking of children for organs. She expressed concern that young girls are being trafficked for prostitution and for slaves in Oman and other Middle Eastern countries.
The Ivorian Minister said in the case of Ivory Coast, they have identified the hot spots of trafficking from Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger where most victims are taken from to work in Cocoa Plantations per their experience.
In light of these developments, the Minister updated the delegation on the progress made by Ivory Coast so far relating to Human Trafficking.
According to her, there are three centers opened for the safety and security of trafficking victims (mainly children) and that mechanisms are put in place for reconnecting these children with their families.
The Ivorian Minister mentioned that an inter-ministerial committee is set up to work on the cross-border situation. She added that more than 200 lawyers and magistrates have been trained on trafficking of persons.
The Minister then expressed her commitment to join the rest of the MRU countries in the hosting of the summit to find a solution against trafficking in persons by stating, “It is urgent, important and we should do it.”
She recommended that they should sit and talk to have a great solution regarding the crimes of human trafficking; that there needs to be an amendment of the ECOWAS Treaty for the safeguard of children who are being trafficked; that Ivory Coast through the Gender Ministry would like to be a part of the Summit. The Minister recommended that there be a review of the various laws within the MRU region.
During the second meeting, the Liberian official met the Ivorian Minister of Labour and Social Protection. After exchange of greetings and pleasantries, the Ivorian Minister of Labour and Social Protection expressed that Ivory Coast too, as a country in the Mano River Union, is experiencing similar threat.
According to the Minister, in most cases, children are trafficked to Ivory Coast to work on plantations and mines through clandestine means.
In this case, the Minister stated that the ECOWAS free movement of persons and goods have been abused and taken advantage of by trafficking children;
However, in Ivory Coast, the Minister revealed that the Ministry of Labour is particularly about labour standards enforcement and decent conditions of employment. Rather, the Minister said it is the Ministry of Solidarity and Fight Against Trafficking that is involved with human trafficking.
Morveover, the Minister made it known that in Ivory Coast, it is mainly the Minister of Security, the Police and other Security agencies involved in arresting perpetrators and forwarding them for prosecution.
The Ivorian Minister went on to express his commitment of being on board for the summit and directed his colleague, the Minister of Solidarity, for substantive discussion on the issues of human trafficking and for the summit.
During the third meeting, the Liberian delegation met the Ivorian Minister of Solidarity and Fight Against Poverty, Madam Sylvie D. Toure. After exchange of greetings and pleasantries, the Ivorian Minister Labour and Social Protection raised the need to harmonize all the differences in the region relating to movements of persons.
Madam Toure called for the development of uniformed laws in order to fight as a bloc against trafficking in persons and that traffickers abused the naivety of victims in order to exploit them.
Therefore, the Minister updated the delegation on the progress made by Ivory Coast so far relating to Human Trafficking.
She said there is an inter-agency collaboration to achieve a singular action against human trafficking and that Ivory Coast has functional safe homes in place for victims who are protected in these homes and at times, turned over to their family and relatives when identified. Minister Toure disclosed that Ivory Coast has validated its strategy against the fight of trafficking in persons.
The Minister expressed her commitment that she is on board and would appreciate the agenda of the Summit ahead of time. Additionally, she stated her willingness and availability anytime beyond the first week of March to join the rest of the MRU countries in Liberia for the Summit, if authorization is given to her by the President.