ACCRA, Ghana, July 31, 2023 -/African Media Agency (AMA)/The ECOWAS Regional Network of National Focal Institutions Against Trafficking in Persons Plus (RNNI-TIP+) commits to increased collaboration, cooperation and partnership in the fight against trafficking in persons and other related crimes in the region. The Group strongly called for the passage of legislation by all Member States to prohibit the practice of ‘out of court settlements’ or ‘mediation’ of cases of violence against persons offences; as this will ensure that all perpetrators of trafficking in persons are adequately punished. This is coming at the end of the 15th/2022 Annual Review Meeting of the Regional Network held in Accra, Republic of Ghana.
The Director, Humanitarian and Social Affairs, Dr. Sintiki Tarfa Ugbe, in her Welcome Address delivered by Mr. Olatunde Olayemi, Program Officer, Social Dimension of Anti-Human Trafficking welcomed and informed the participants of the implementation of the ECOWAS Counter Trafficking in Persons Program and mentioned that the Directorate of Humanitarian and Social Affairs just concluded a training workshop on Trafficking in Persons and Related forms of Criminal Victimization in Lome Togo. He also emphasized the interconnectedness of the programs of the Division of Human Security and Civil Society, including the Human Security Integrated Coordination Mechanisms (ECO-PHSICM), the Emergency Protection Program, Child Protection and the counter trafficking in persons plus program. She acknowledged the collaboration between the ECOWAS Commission and the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) and appreciated the support of the OCWAR-T Project for the organisation of the Annual Review Meeting.
In her Opening Address, the Deputy Minister, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Republic of Ghana, Honourable Francisca OTENG MENSAH, welcomed the participants to Ghana and stated that trafficking in persons is a cankerworm and requires the collaboration of every stakeholder in order to be defeated. She encouraged the participants to always work for the welfare of the victims of trafficking as there is no justification in leaving any identified victim behind. She charged the participants to identify clear referral pathways so that rescued victims could be returned to their families and reintegrated to the society. She praised the commitment of the ECOWAS Commission and the ICMPD in the fight against trafficking in persons.
In his Goodwill Message the Delegation of the European Union to Ghana, represented by the Head of Cooperation, Mr. Massimo MINA called on all the stakeholders to double their efforts in tackling the scourge and to always put the welfare of the victims at the centre of the counter-trafficking strategies. Ms. Pauline Okkens from the Political and Protocol/ Development Cooperation Section of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Ghana noted that Migration has always been a crucial aspect of the shared history of humanity and therefore represents a vital livelihood and adaptation strategy and sometimes even a means of survival for many people. She therefore emphasised the need for a collective effort by all the stakeholders in order to optimise the benefits of migration while seeking to combat any adverse effects, particularly human rights violations, associated with migration, including trafficking in persons.
There also, where goodwill messages by the ICMPD Head of Region, Dr. Mojisola Sodeinde, delivered by the Head of ICMPD Country Office in Ghana, Mrs. Amala Obiokoye-Nwalor, the Regional Director, “Support the fight against Human Trafficking in the States of the Gulf of Guinea Project” – Mr. Alessandro RABBIOSI; and the Director of Training and Manpower Development, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and Other Related Crimes (NAPTIP) Nigeria, Mr. Arinze Orakwue, on behalf of the Federal republic of Nigeria as the current Chair of the ECOWAS Authority of the Heads of State and Government.
The 3-day meeting featured presentations by Member States on the implementation of 2022 TIP Priorities and ECOWAS TIP 2018-2022 Plan of Action; as well as their 2023 Priorities, which showed progress in the combat of TIP+ despite many challenges. Amongst other outcomes, the Member States and the ECOWAS Commission agreed to the extension of the period of implementation of the ECOWAS Plan of Action Against Trafficking of Persons (2018-2022) to the year 2028; and also validated the Regional Referral Mechanism (RRM). Some recommendations proffered include: the need to improve the environment for mandatory reporting by specific stakeholders (examples include doctors and other healthcare professionals, the police and other law enforcement agencies, clerics and traditional rulers) especially concerning suspected victims of TIP and other related crimes; as well as to encourage anonymous reporting; establishment/enhancement of effective Victim/Witness Protection mechanisms in order to ensure effective prosecution of cases and adequate sentences obtained against perpetrators; passage of legislation by all Member States to prohibit the practice of ‘out of court settlements’ or ‘mediation’ of cases of violence against persons offences; and development of comprehensive Information Management Systems that capture the profile of victims as such would aid effective referral pathways.
Participants include representatives of ECOWAS Commission, Member States anti-TIP Focal Institutions, ICMPD, GIZ, IOM, UNODC, International Social Service-West Africa, and other partners.
Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of ECOWAS.