The Gambia government has gathered stakeholders on Tuesday in a two-day conference to analyse the situation of trafficking in persons as the country prepares to submit its periodic report later this year.
In September, 2019, The Gambia fell to tier 3 of the United States Department of Labor (DOL) ranking who announced the disbursement of $750, 000 (GMD 37.1 Million grant) to The Gambia to address the menace. The funding was released through the International Organization for Migration (IOM) for implementation.
The executive director of the National Agency against Trafficking in Persons (NATIP), Tulie Jawara said the key stakeholders are invited to address the 2020 trafficking in persons’ report and the reporting questions.
“The Trafficking Victims Protection Act 2020 as amended requires the department of state to submit this report to congress by 1st June 2020 of each year. Responses are due to departments of state by February 14th 2020 and should cover the period from April 1st 2019 to March 31st 2020.
“Submissions of answers to the questions are requested by January 31st 2020 to permit the US embassy sufficient time to process the submissions and send final responses to the department of state not later than the close of business on 14th February 2020,” she stated at the opening.
NATIP was established by the revised Act of Parliament in 2007 which also addresses the creation of the Trafficking in Persons Act. The agency is under the purview of the Ministry of Justice, mandated to combat the menace.
“The Gambia as a country is complying with its international obligations and it has signed and ratified the Palermo Protocol (Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children. This also supplements the United Nations Convention against Trans-National Organised Crimes.”
“The Gambia is perceived to be a source, a transit point and a destination country for cases of trafficking in persons just like most of the countries in the world. The trafficking in persons is usually referred to as modern day slave trade,” Jawara stated.
She says as much as NATIP has its challenges, it equally has its success stories as alleged victims of trafficking were repatriated from Beirut thanks to the intervention of the government and were successfully reintegrated into society.
Several young Gambians were tricked and taken to some middle-east countries where they were subjected to the worst form of human rights violations, including a 23-year-old Fatou Badjie who was operated and lost her kidney to a dying old man, husband of her so-called master.
The Vice President of The Gambia, Isatou Touray blames the culture of silence as the cause of the long existing phenomenon, saying it was placed under the carpet.
“I am very happy to tell you that the government of the Gambia has zero tolerance to trafficking in persons,” she said.
According to her, president Adama Barrow attaches high sense of commitment in ensuring the total combating of the menace as such practices equate to gross violation of human rights and dignity of the persons.
“The government will put all the efforts together and support all the relevant institutions to address the issue of trafficking in persons. It’s a human rights violation and also it has a gender dimension.
VP Touray believes that the needed efforts are beyond government as she calls for participation of non-state actors and NGOs.
“I think every civil society organisation or the non-state actors will see themselves part of it apart from what the government does. It’s not the plate for government alone but everybody who is engage in addressing human rights issues, violence against women, children and disability and people who do not have the opportunity or whose voices were never heard.”
According to her, she decided to call for a conference to engage stakeholders to show what has been done, what will be done and how we move forward on this matter. She notes that The Gambia is obliged to respond to the whole list of questions regarding the issue which needs the involvement of inclusive responses.
“This is why today we are all together to ensure that the report we are going to give is going to reflect the real situation on the ground. We have been but the weaknesses that we had were collaboration, communication and engagement from different aspects.
The Director General of the Department of Strategic Policy and Delivery at the Office of the President, Alagie Nyangado stresses the need for improvement in the ranking status in order to access beyond the US government’s humanitarian grant after slipping to tier 3.
“As a result, we were to be considered under the Millennium Corporation Challenge Account.
…for almost $250 million that has to be put on hold because our rating had gone up,” he said.
The Solicitor General, Cherno Marenah describes human trafficking as a major threat to the maintenance of rule of law public order. It is one of the worst forms of violations of human rights. He said the government has placed the issue of human rights at the centre of its priority since 2017.
“The Ministry of Justice, tasked to be implementing the human rights agenda of the government is committed to fighting all forms of human rights abuses including the trafficking in persons. Like all other trans-national organised crimes, human trafficking is a multi-billion-dollar industry.”
According to ILO, force labour alone which is just one component of human trafficking generates an estimate 150 billion dollars in profit as per 2014. The ILO also estimates that over 20 million victims are trapped in modern day slavery.
Marena admits that The Gambia is not immune from the scotch of human trafficking and exploitation, citing the geographical location and the open-door policy as a factor of human trafficking and exploitation as a transit point.