By Omar Bah
In its 2021 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, the US Department of State said the Gambia government does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.
The report, produced annually as required by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), ranked The Gambia just above the lowest possible ranking.
The West African country remains on Tier Two Watchlist signifying that the government does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.
However, the report indicates that the country has taken significant steps to do so.
The country’s most serious shortfall, the report argued, is in completing prosecutions of traffickers consistent with the due process and speedy trial rights of the accused.
“The country did not complete a single criminal case against a defendant accused of trafficking during the 12-month period covered by the report. For the fourth consecutive year, no traffickers have been convicted. Punishing traffickers convicted in a fair trial is an essential component of obtaining justice for trafficking victims,” the report disclosed.
According to the report, the efforts made by the government include adopting a new national referral mechanism (NRM) and training government officials and service providers on its implementation.
“The government identified more victims and continued efforts to raise public awareness of trafficking and to train law enforcement and government employees on trafficking,” the report said.
However, the reports stressed that, “The government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity”.
According to the report, government agencies charged with combating trafficking continued to lack resources and training, and victim services remained inadequate.
A country can remain at Tier 2 Watch List for only two years and must address identified deficiencies to progress fully to Tier 2 or be automatically downgraded to Tier 3.
A downgrade to Tier 3 negatively impacts assistance funding from the United States.
“We encourage the Gambian Government to increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, including allegations of child sex tourism; direct and fund law enforcement to investigate all reported trafficking cases, including those brought forward by civil society; ensure human trafficking cases are resolved through the judicial system rather than extra-judicial or administrative means,” the report added.
According to the US Department of State, human trafficking represents a threat to international peace and security.
“It undermines the rule of law, robs millions of their dignity and freedom, enriches transnational criminals and terrorists, and threatens public safety and national security everywhere.
“It is the United States’ sincere desire to continue to partner with the government and the people of The Gambia to ensure that trafficking victims are cared for, and the government uses its rule of law mechanisms to fully enforce Gambian law and bring the perpetrators of such exploitation of human beings to justice,” the report added.
The United States however commits to continue supporting the work of the Gambian government to combat trafficking via grants to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) which bolsters the government’s work in combating trafficking.
However, only few days ago a court imposed heavy mandatory jail sentences on Immigration officers accused of facilitating trafficking of people to Spain. Those convictions though came too late for the above report.