Police spokesman ASP David Kujabi told The Standard on Wednesday 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. He said most of the cases are transferred to the National Agency Against Trafficking in Persons.
The Trafficking in Persons (TIP) 2014 Report 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.”
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.” Local activists are already expressing concern about the report, which they say “has placed the Gambia in quite an unfavourable position.”
ASP David Kujabi explained: “Police have problems with 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. That makes it difficult for us to pursue them.”
He cited a case involving a suspected Lebanese ring, in which The Gambian police shared information with Interpol in Lebanon. “Communication was initiated with the alleged victim’s family in Lebanon. At first, the family cooperated and provided information about the victim allegedly trafficked to The Gambia, but after a while the communication went cold. When we contacted them, we were told it was all right. They were no longer interested in pursuing the case,” ASP Kujabi explained.
He said sometimes “threats could be involved which may discourage families and victims from pursuing cases with the police. Other families will fear the stigma this may bring to the family name in the society they are living in.”
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.” 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.”]]>