LIBERIA: GOL IS MAKING SIGNIFICANT EFFORTS TO ELIMINATE TRAFFICKING, U.S. REPORT SAYS

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According to the 2023 trafficking in persons report just released by the United States Government, the Government of Liberia has made significant efforts in making sure that trafficking is eliminated in the country.
“The Government of Liberia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared with the previous reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Liberia remained on Tier 2. These efforts included prosecuting and convicting an official complicit in human trafficking and identifying more victims and referring them to services. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Investigations decreased and law enforcement officials continued to lack adequate resources and understanding of trafficking to effectively investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes. Victim services, especially shelter, remained insufficient.” The report says.
The report has however recommended that more efforts be made to investigate and prosecute trafficking cases.
“Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking cases, including those involving internal trafficking, sex trafficking, related criminal networks, and officials accused of complicity. Train labor inspectors and social workers on standard victim identification procedures and the national referral mechanism. Improve collaboration between anti-trafficking police units, immigration, labor, and judicial authorities. Increase financial or in-kind support to NGOs that support trafficking victims. Train law enforcement and judicial officials on identifying, investigating, and prosecuting trafficking cases under the revised 2021 anti-trafficking law. Increase labor inspections in the informal sector and mining regions to improve identification of trafficking cases, including child forced labor. Increase efforts to raise public awareness of human trafficking, including internal trafficking. Allocate financial and in-kind resources to the national anti-trafficking task force. Screen foreign workers, including Cuban overseas workers, for forced labor indicators and refer identified forced labor victims to appropriate services.” The report stipulates.
While highlighting the various investigations made during the last period under review, the report also indicated that the Government of Liberia has maintained law enforcement efforts.
“The government investigated eight trafficking cases, involving 12 suspects, including five for labor trafficking and three for unspecified forms of trafficking, and continued investigations of seven cases involving eight suspects. This compared with investigating 13 trafficking cases involving an unknown number of suspects in the previous reporting period. The government initiated prosecution of 13 defendants and continued prosecuting three defendants from the previous Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking cases, including those involving internal trafficking, sex trafficking, related criminal networks, and officials accused of complicity. Train labor inspectors and social workers on standard victim identification procedures and the national referral mechanism. Improve collaboration between anti-trafficking police units, immigration, labor, and judicial authorities. Increase financial or in-kind support to NGOs that support trafficking victims. Train law enforcement and judicial officials on identifying, investigating, and prosecuting trafficking cases under the revised 2021 anti-trafficking law. Increase labor inspections in the informal sector and mining regions to improve identification of trafficking cases, including child forced labor. Increase efforts to raise public awareness of human trafficking, including internal trafficking. Allocate financial and in-kind resources to the national anti-trafficking task force. Screen foreign workers, including Cuban overseas workers, for forced labor indicators and refer identified forced labor victims to appropriate services. 6/15/23, 4:31 PM Liberia – United States Department of State https://www.state.gov/reports/2023-trafficking-in-persons-report/liberia/ 3/9 reporting period. This compared with prosecuting 12 defendants in the previous reporting period. Of those prosecuted, 15 individuals were prosecuted under the Revised Trafficking in Persons Act of 2021 and one was prosecuted under the previous 2005 law. The courts convicted four traffickers, three for labor trafficking and one for an unspecified form of trafficking, compared to eight convictions during the previous reporting period. Sentences ranged from three to 25 years’ imprisonment. Three of the convictions were obtained under the Revised Trafficking in Persons Act of 2021 and one was obtained under the previous 2005 law. In previous reporting periods, observers noted the government sometimes prosecuted and convicted crimes as human trafficking which lacked a clear element of exploitation. The Ministry of Labor (MOL) had the authority to prosecute trafficking and child labor cases. Officials continued to lack understanding of internal trafficking, and some continued to view forms of trafficking, especially of children for forced domestic servitude, as a community practice rather than a crime. Prosecutors may have pursued other charges, including rape and child endangerment in lieu of sex trafficking or child forced labor, due to a lack of understanding of human trafficking. For the first time, the government prosecuted and convicted a complicit official on human trafficking charges. The government convicted a former National Security Agent for accepting money for his role in a human trafficking scheme involving facilitating transport of Liberian women to Oman. The former official was sentenced to 25 years in prison and ordered to pay a fine and restitution. However, corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action. The Liberian National Police (LNP) Anti-Trafficking in Persons Unit was the primary investigator of trafficking cases. The Liberian Immigration Service (LIS) and Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency investigated transnational trafficking cases. The LIS Anti-Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Unit, comprised of 14 officers, stationed at least one officer at each of Liberia’s five major ports of entry and other minor ports of entry. The LNP lacked basic resources and equipment to fully respond to and investigate trafficking allegations, especially outside the capital. The government provided some support to an international organization to train law enforcement and judicial officials on conducting trafficking investigations and identifying victims. The government also trained prosecutors on trying trafficking cases and provided a legal handbook on human trafficking to prosecutors and judges. Human trafficking training was 6/15/23, 4:31 PM Liberia – United States Department of State https://www.state.gov/reports/2023-trafficking-in-persons-report/liberia/ 4/9 included in the curricula of the National Police Academy. The government disseminated information on the 2021 anti-trafficking law to law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges. Nonetheless, officials and NGOs reported many labor inspectors, police, prosecutors, and judges remained unable to identify trafficking and lacked sufficient resources, impeding trafficking investigations and prosecutions.” The State Department’s report says.

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