In commemoration of the World Day against Trafficking in Persons on 30 July, IDLO stands in solidarity with the international community and front-line actors working to combat trafficking in persons. The 2020 theme “Committed to the Cause – Working on the Front Line to End Human Trafficking” provides an opportunity to recognize and celebrate first responders working on the front lines of efforts to combat trafficking in persons.
First responders, who include police, immigration officers, labor officers, prosecutors, judges, civil society organizations, medical personnel, teachers and people working in transport and service industries, among many others, are essential to effectively combat trafficking in persons. Through their work in different sectors, they help to identify, support, counsel and seek justice for victims of trafficking and in making efforts to bring traffickers to account.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the plight of victims of trafficking, due to lockdown measures, travel restrictions and other emergency measures imposed to combat COVID-19. Women and children in particular face heightened forms of exploitation and violence. Traffickers, however, have continued to operate, in some cases moving deeper underground to evade the reach of the law. The role of first responders has never been more critical.
During a recent webinar on ‘COVID-19 and Trafficking in Persons: The Role of First Responders’, speakers from Liberia, Uganda and Nigeria highlighted the need for a rights based approach and inclusion of victims when designing responses to combat trafficking in persons.
Combating trafficking in persons in Liberia
IDLO has been working in Liberia to build the capacity of law enforcement officers and other stakeholders across the justice chain to effectively address human trafficking cases since 2015. IDLO’s program also seeks to enhance public awareness through community-based initiatives.
Working closely with the Liberian National Anti-Human Trafficking Taskforce, significant progress has been recorded in the fight against trafficking in persons. In June 2020, the United States upgraded Liberia’s status in its 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report, elevating the country to Tier 2 after three years on the Tier 2 Watch List, thanks to what it referenced as “overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period”.
In announcing the upgrade, the U.S. Embassy in Liberia noted Liberia’s “steadfast willingness to tackle the problem of human trafficking—especially domestic forced labor of children” as well as the “sustained cooperation of investigators, prosecutors, law enforcement officers and trainers, and labor officials”.
The Minister of Labor and Chairman of the National Anti-Human Trafficking Taskforce of Liberia, Moses Yarkpazuo Kollie, publicly acknowledged IDLO’s support in helping the country combat trafficking in persons and pledged to continue engagement until “trafficking in Liberia is substantially minimized, if not abolished”.
Photo credit: © Siam/Adobe Stock