By Sanna Camara
The government of The Gambia has been blamed for not doing enough to repatriate dozens of trafficked girls back to Gambia since sheltering them in consular compound over six months ago.
According to our sources, this has raised concerns about increasing vulnerabilities of the girls to further abuses in Lebanon.
Despite the fact that the government has already identified and provided shelter to 19 Gambian victims of human trafficking in Lebanon, sources close to these girls have intimidate that they are not being looked after in the said shelter, This has forced them to move out and rent two separate apartments on their own.
“They are living there, overcrowded and doing whatever they have to, to earn a living in that country, Not to mention the fact that they have to work to pay rent and sustain themselves without proper documentations,” a source told Gambia Beat recently.
Subjected to domestic servitude
A 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report has blamed The Gambia government for demonstrating “minimal efforts” to protect trafficking victims:
“The government did not identify or provide services to any trafficking victims within the country ….. However, [it] identified 19 Gambian girls who had been subjected to domestic servitude in Lebanon,” the Report pointed out.
The Gambian consulate in Lebanon reportedly placed the girls “in a safe house” while the government organised their repatriation.
For unexplained reasons, these girls have still been left in Beirut without the needed help since early this year, our sources indicated.
According to reports, the stories of these young women are essential to a trial process involving trafficking suspects that began about six months ago in The Gambia. “The case was adjourned pending the arrest of the three at-large suspects, although the trial cannot proceed until the young women are repatriated,” reports said.
Bench warrant issued for three suspects
A trafficking suspect who was indicted by the authorities in Gambia over the trafficking, exploitation and related charges still maintains his innocence. He is among the three suspects who are wanted by authorities for alleged trafficking crimes.
“The government investigated one trafficking case, but did not prosecute or convict any trafficking offenders in 2014,” reports added.
In March 2015, a Magistrate Court in Banjul charged four individuals with trafficking 19 Gambian women to Lebanon. Only one suspect appeared before the court, released on bail, and a bench warrant issued for the other three suspects…
The US State Department report said the government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses.
However, it decried that law enforcement officers have been “acting with impunity and corruption”, something it laments as “a serious problem” in the country.
The 19 girls trapped in Lebanon
An indicted trafficking suspect has told Gambia Beat in July that, “Despite allegations of servitude and exploitation by the 19 girls, government investigations revealed little substance in such claims.”
“Government found that such claims were just lies fabricated by the 19 girls. As a result, it lost interest in pursuing the cases it was trying to bring before the courts,” the suspect claimed.
Whether that is true or not, reports monitored in Lebanon indicate that the girls are in currently in serious trouble with the law in that country.
“They are required to renew their work permits and regularise their immigration status after the elapse of their initial two years contract that brought them from The Gambia since 2013,” our sources revealed.
“These girls were brought to Lebanon by ‘a multi services company’ that served as their agents. They were recruited to work as domestic workers in Lebanon. ” the source pointed out.
As their agent, all the paper works were handled by the company on their behalf.
“Upon being charged with trafficking related offences in The Gambia, the company withdrew from the deals, leaving the girls to fend for themselves in a country,” a source close to them explained.
Charges against the girls in Lebanon
Since they found work conditions as domestic servants “unbearable”, these girls have fled their work posts. Hence among the crimes they allegedly committed are breach of contracts and theft.
“They have broken their contracts with their respective sponsors who funded their coming to Lebanon,” our source said.
In Lebanon, such contracts after signing by both parties are binding on each of them. According to the source, any breach is deemed serious offence.
There are also allegations and charges of theft levied against some of the girls. Their sponsors alleged theft of jewelries of diverse values from their houses upon the girls’ fleeing.
“Once they are caught by the Police, the matter will be referred to the Immigration Department. That is the norm here when you are an immigrant,” the source said.
And since the girls are not in possession of their travel documents, there is no way for them to leave the country since the records exist with the Immigration and the Police.
In business with Nigerians?
A number of them who initially caught up with Nigerians in Lebanon have been offered jobs. With no other alternatives, they picked up jobs in bars, clubs and restaurants.
“These Nigerians are mainly footballers here in Lebanon… they offer jobs to these girls in restaurants, hotels and night clubs,” our sources clarified.
He added that if there are allegations of any sort of sexual exploitation, “it is in those places and not in domestic work environments,” the source argued.