afrol News, 25 October - The 15 ECOWAS countries of West Africa this week agreed to an action plan committing their countries to take steps in the next two years towards eliminating human trafficking. The initiative follows recent scandals involving trafficking child slaves.
The plan adopted at the just-concluded Meeting on Trafficking in Human Beings in Accra, Ghana, calls for the countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to ratify and fully implement international instruments of ECOWAS and the United Nations that strengthen laws against human trafficking and protect victims of trafficking, especially women and children, according to a UN release.
The two-day meeting, which ended on Wednesday, was held in cooperation with the Vienna-based UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP). The 15 ECOWAS member States are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.
According to UN agency, trafficking in human beings is pervasive and growing in West Africa today, with the involvement of organized crime driving this growth and increasing the number of the sub-region's citizens who suffer its depredations.
Two main types of trafficking exist in the sub-region: trafficking in children mainly for domestic work and for farm labour across and within national borders; and trafficking in women and children for sexual exploitation mainly outside of the sub-region.
The UN agency sees poverty as a major driving force in the rise of trafficking in human beings. "Women and children are easily lured into trafficking networks by recruiters who promise lucrative jobs abroad."
The action plan will be submitted for adoption by the annual Summit of ECOWAS Heads of States in December. It will commit countries to adopt laws criminalizing trafficking in human beings and to build the necessary administrative structures.
Working in co-operation with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other representatives of civil society, ECOWAS countries will take responsibility for protecting trafficking victims. They will also develop public awareness campaigns aimed at potential victims of trafficking, using both traditional channels of information as well as the mass media.
The initiative has come few months after the scandal of the ship 'Etireno', carrying child slaves from Benin to Central Africa in April this year. The ship that docked in Cotonou on 17 April carried 43 children, of which 13 were from Benin, 8 from Togo, 17 from Mali, one from Senegal and one from Guinea. They were probably on their way to Gabon as the grotesque freight 'Etireno' was covered up.
Publicity over the last year surrounding the use of child laves in Ivorian cocoa plantations also ha helped put pressure on West African governments to take the issue seriously.