As part of their joint programme to end cross-border child trafficking in West Africa, Defence for Children International (DCI) national sections in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia recently conducted new cross-border training sessions for security officials, community leaders, civil society organisations and other key stakeholders at the Liberian-Guinean border.
The joint workshops aimed to identify practical measures to address gaps in the prevention of child trafficking and the identification and protection of victims, building upon previous sessions conducted in 2016.
As a result, various mechanisms, such as joint security meetings by border officials and coordinated efforts between local Child Welfare Committees, bike riders’ associations and police and border officials, have been put in place.
Coordinated efforts starting to pay off
On Wednesday 17 May 2017, a few days after the training sessions, the Sierra Leone police apprehended a 36-year-old medical nurse travelling to Guinea with six children, none of them being hers. Unable to provide legal documents authorizing her to care for the children, law enforcement officials quickly suspected a trafficking case.
Police forces rapidly contacted DCI-Sierra Leone to provide support with the investigation. It was later found that the woman’s activity was well established: she was travelling on average every 3 months to “collect” children from her brother living in Bo district, in southern Sierra Leone, and bring them to Guinea as domestic workers. Children in the district were identified by her brother, who usually deceived the parents in believing that their children would be employed in Conakry, Guinea, and be able to send some money back to help their parents.
At the police station, the woman eventually revealed the scheme and confessed her wrong-doing.
DCI-Sierra Leone and DCI-Guinea are now working hand-to-hand with local authorities to fully investigate the trafficking scheme and its ramifications, as well as to identify all potential victims that might be engaged in some form of forced labour and/or exploitation.
The effective cooperation between all the actors involved in the investigation of this case are a direct proof of the impact of DCI’s training sessions and constitute an encouraging sign of future efforts to effectively end the practice of cross-border child trafficking in the region.