Twenty-one-year old Daniel Tetteh and 18-year-old Eric Larbi are on snack break in an automobile garage in Accra, sitting on a bench under a shade and munching on their midday snack.

Daniel and Eric have always dreamt of completing their education and pursuing some fancy careers.

The two youngsters may never realize this dream because eight years ago, it was rudely interrupted when they were sold by their parents as slaves to a fisherman.

Recalling the events that led to his present predicament, Daniel, who hails from Senya Bereku in the Central Region, says his mother had great plans for him. Unfortunately, she fell ill and could not cater for his education, truncating his dream of furthering his education.

This makes a case for those calling for free education for all.

One day, some people approached his mother and convinced her to let Daniel stay with some guardians in Accra in exchange for an unknown amount of money.

?She [Daniel?s mother] told me that I will be going with the people to Accra so I can further my education,? he recalls.

Princess Asie Ocansey, CEO, SOS Labour ghana, Canada

However, the promised trip to Accra quickly turned into a nightmare for him as he found himself in Yeji in the Brong-Ahafo Region where he battled for survival in what was akin to modern day slavery.

From Yeji, he was taken to the Volta Region, where his new guardian, a fisherman, used him as a labourer.

At a tender age, Daniel was forced to regularly dive into the Volta Lake to bait fishes or to disentangle fishing nets cast by his master. Starvation became his regular companion. ?Life was really hard for me at that tender age,? says Daniel who worked from 11pm till 5am on a daily basis.

?The day that I would fall sick it becomes difficult for me because the man would not bother but will keep making me work,? says Daniel.

After two years, Daniel returned to his hometown only to find out that his mother had died in his absence. None of his family member could take care of him because they lacked the financial capacity to do so. Hence, at 13, he officially became a lowly fisherman until he turned 21.

?At age 21, I decided to travel to Accra to look for greener pastures but life was not easy for me, especially because I was a mere ?shoe shine? boy,? Daniel tearfully says.

According to him, it was during his ?shoe shine? days in Accra that he heard about the NGO called the Rescue Foundation Ghana.  It agreed to support him after hearing his story and helped Daniel get his current job at a garage.

?I am happy with my current condition and have decided to work hard in appreciation of the Rescue Foundation Ghana,? he adds.

Meanwhile, his colleague, Eric Larbi, is extremely traumatized by his experience that he has blotted out the negative memories.

When asked, he said he could not remember any of his dehumanizing experiences; all he could recall was that he worked as a child labourer in Yeji before he was saved by Rescue Foundation Ghana.

Immigration officers at the two-day conference

Every year, thousands of men, women and children fall into Daniel and Eric?s predicament. This forced labour happens either in their own countries or abroad where they are sometimes ferried to, to do menial jobs.

Human trafficking has become a debilitating phenomenon described as modern day slavery. It continues to thrive in broad daylight despite government and other institutional interventions to bring it under control.

Human trafficking is estimated to be the third most profitable illegal economic business after illicit drugs and arms trafficking, according to research conducted by global anti-forced labour organization, International Labour Organization (ILO).

It estimated that about 2.4 million people globally have been victims of human trafficking between 1995 and 2005.

Trafficking Hub

DCOP Peter A. Wiredu, acting director of the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS), reveals that Ghana is both a transit and destination country for migrant smuggling and human trafficking.

According to Wiredu, the recent Libyan crisis exposed the depth of human trafficking from Ghana through the Tuareg plagued Saharan Desert.

He says about 25,000 Ghanaians have been evacuated from Libya; most of them were smuggled there.

DCOP Wiredu says between January 2010 and May 2012, 124 cases involving migrant smuggling have been dealt with through interception by immigration officers at the Kotoka International Airport.

?Most of these smugglers attempted to use Ghana as a transit route to Canada and Europe,? he says.

Superintendent Patience Quaye, Director of the Anti Human Trafficking Unit of the Police Criminal Investigation Department (CID), attributes some of the challenges of fighting human trafficking and human smuggling in Ghana to victims? unwillingness to disclose information.

According to her, some parents and guardians are accomplices to the crime whilst most victims are also ignorant about the issue.

?Other challenges are procedural issues, inadequate shelters for victims, inter-agency collaboration funding and training,? adds the anti-human trafficking officer.

She says weak inadequate logistics and weak law enforcement and implementation as well as inadequate education and sensitization are all challenges facing the GIS in its combat against human trafficking and human smuggling in Ghana.

Illegal Profits

According to a 2005 ILO report, a total of $32 billion annual profit was generated by the human trafficking industry.

The statistics indicated that $15.5 billion was made in industrialized countries; and $9.7billion in Asia, with an average of $13,000 generated on each forced laborer per year.

The US Department of State?s 2007 ?Trafficking Persons? says approximately 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year.

Indeed, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates that about 161 countries are caught in this modern day slave trade.

Presidential Sanction

Meanwhile, before President Evans Atta Mills died in July, a law that specifically proscribes human smuggling and trafficking was passed.

The Immigration (Amendment) Act, 2012, which has become a statute in Ghana, defines migrant smuggling as ?the facilitation of the unlawful entry or departure from the country of a person in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit?.

Under the new law, a person who engages in migrant smuggling commits an offence and can be convicted to a fine of not less than 625 penalty units and not more than 1,250 penalty units or to a term of imprisonment of not less than five years and not more than 10 years or both.

Victims of human trafficking are said to be economically vulnerable people who may have limited choices in life. They are easily enticed and lured into long term exploitation by unscrupulous traffickers.

The UNODC describes human trafficking as a crime against humanity, involving several facets, including recruiting, transporting, transferring, harbouring or receiving a person through the use of force, coercion or other means to exploit them.

Way Forward

The GIS has so far trained 10 document fraud detection experts in The Netherlands who have all been certified as international standard experts on illegal human trade.

The increasing seriousness of the issue prompted the GIS to organise a two-day stakeholders? conference organized in Accra on Thursday July 5 to 6. The theme was, ?Building Partnerships To Counter Human Smuggling And Trafficking In Ghana?.

The two-day seminar brought together anti-human smuggling and trafficking and development experts to discuss measures to tackle the menace.

During the conference, the Minister of Interior, William K. Aboah, called for collaborative efforts to tackle the menace. ?Tackling migrant smuggling necessitates a comprehensive, multi-dimensional response which begins with addressing the socio-economic root causes of irregular migration to prevent it, and the prosecution of criminals who commit smuggling-related crimes,? Aboah says.

Ambassador Claude Maerten, Head of the EU Delegation to Ghana, adds that human trafficking is an extremely serious crime and a gross violation of human rights which can be classified as a modern form of slavery.

?The European Union?s anti-human trafficking policy takes a holistic approach focusing on prevention, the protection of victims and prosecution of criminals,? he says.

The GIS, through the support of its partner agencies like the European Union, has trained a sizeable number of officers, both locally and internationally, on detecting, arresting and prosecuting migrant smugglers.

The service has also domesticated the UNODC Training Manual on anti-human smuggling for Ghana.

According to Superintendent Patience Quaye, human trafficking has been a global menace and requires a collective effort from all.

?So let?s build partnership in the fight against trafficking in human beings,? she adds.

By Stella Danso Addai

View the original article here

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