By Sanna Camara
The Gambia Police Force has admitted to problems and challenges that they are faced with in tackling trafficking in persons into and from The Gambia, and have urged the public to give them information regarding cases of human trafficking in their families and communities…
Police spokesman ASP David Kujabi has said that there are no organised rings in The Gambia that have been identified to be engaged in human trafficking, even though isolated cases were “often” brought to their attention.
However, he added that most of those “end up becoming cold” after they launch their investigations. in The Gambia, most of the cases are transferred to the National Agency Against Trafficking in Persons.
Women, girls, boys are subjected to sex trafficking, domestic servitude
The Trafficking in Persons (TIP) 2014 Report isued by the US State Departent has identified The Gambia as “a source and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking.”
“Within The Gambia, women, girls, and, to a lesser extent, boys are subjected to sex trafficking and domestic servitude. Women, girls, and boys from West African countries — mainly Senegal, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and Benin — are recruited for commercial sexual exploitation in The Gambia,” TIP Report 2014 stated.
The report further added that “the majority of these victims are subjected to sexual exploitation by European child sex tourists. Observers believe organised sex trafficking networks use both European and Gambian travel agencies to promote child sex tourism.”
“Police have problems in tackling human trafficking”
Police public relations officer, ASP David Kujabi explained that “Police have problems with [tackling] cases of trafficking in persons because victims or their families do not show willingness to go further with investigations… Most times, we receive calls [from the victims and their families] to drop the matter [after we have launched our investigation]. That makes it difficult for us to pursue them.”
He cited a case involving a suspected Lebanese ring which The Gambian police pursued beyond the Gambia, shared information with Interpol in Lebanon for possible indictment. “Communication was initiated with the alleged victims’ family in Lebanon. At first, the family [in Lebanon] cooperated in the investigations and provided information about the victims allegedly trafficked….
But after a while, the communication went cold, said the PRO. He added: “When we contacted them agai in Lebabon, we were told ‘it was all right’. They were no longer interested in pursuing the case,” ASP Kujabi explained.
‘Families are afraid to pursue, report cases even when they suspect rafficking’
Asked what may have made the family changed their minds, the Police spokesman said sometimes “threats could be involved which may discourage families and victims from pursuing cases with the police. Other families will fear the dagers and even stigma this may bring to the family….”
He called for awareness creation among the population in dealing with trafficking in person cases, in terms of what they should do when they are confronted with such cases.
Meanwhile, the Trafficking in Persons Report 2014 revealed that The Gambia government “demonstrated a decrease in anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period.”
Agency has not shown much its work since establishment
It noted The Gambia’s laws provide penalties that “are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The Gambia’s 2005 Children’s Act also prohibits child trafficking—though it does not include forced labour in its definition of trafficking—prescribing a penalty of life imprisonment. The 2003 Tourism Offences Act explicitly prohibits child sex trafficking, prescribing a penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment.”
The anti-trafficking agency established under the Ministry of Jutstice to help combat the menace of trafficking in persons problem in The Gambia, has not shown much to show for its work since establishment, critics have said.
However, observers believe that the agency is suffereing from weak institution capacity, lack of necessary resources and te competent human resources to effectively combat the human trafficking problems being faced by the country.