Cablegate: Sierra Leone 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report
DE RUEHFN #0064/01 0431505
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 121505Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY FREETOWN
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 3175
UNCLAS FREETOWN 000064
FOR G/TIP, G-LAURA PENA, INL, DRL, PRM, AF/RSA
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KTIP KCRM PHUM KWMN SMIG KFRD ASEC PREF ELAB
SUBJECT: SIERRA LEONE 2010 TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS REPORT
REF: A. A. STATE 002094
B. B. 09 FREETOWN 56
1. (SBU) This report covering 2009 relies on the research
done for 2008 in ref B, updating where necessary. The
trafficking situation remains much as reported there. Sierra
Leone ranks near or at the bottom of every global measure of
poverty. Trafficking in persons thrives in such an
environment. Reliable statistics do not exist. Without
continuous donor support, the problem could worsen.
2. (U) Preparation of the report was overseen by WAE
political-economic officer Haywood Rankin who departs
mid-February, with no replacement contemplated within months.
Pol-econ assistant (FSN-10) Abdul Massally may be contacted
at Tel. 232-76-515-000 ext. 5130, cell phone 232-76-661-023.
WAE pol-econ officer spent 15 hours on this report, pol-econ
assistant 30 hours.
3. (SBU) Begin TIP report:
TIP in Sierra Leone
A. Sources of Information. Post relies on a number of
organizations for information, including: International
Organization on Migration (IOM); Faith Alliance Against
Slavery and Trafficking (FAAST); Center for Victims of
Torture (CVT); International Rescue Committee (IRC); UNICEF;
the Family Support Unit (FSU) of the Sierra Leone Police
(SLP); and the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and
Children's Affairs (MOSWGCA).
B. Origin/Destination. The main trafficking issue in Sierra
Leone is internal. Although there are no accurate statistics
quantifying the extent of the problem, all indications
suggest that women and children are trafficked from the
provinces to towns and mining areas for prostitution, and
children are trafficked from rural areas into the city and
mining areas for labor, including domestic work, petty
trading, portage, begging, and petty crime. Trafficking may
also occur in the fishing and agricultural industries and in
connection with customary practices such as forced and
The incidence of international trafficking appears to be
relatively small, but Sierra Leone is likely still to be a
source and destination country for cross-border trafficking.
Persons have been trafficked out of Sierra Leone to
destinations in West Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.
FAAST reported one case of attempted trafficking (adoption
fraud) to the USA in 2009.
While there are no documented cases of Sierra Leone as a
transit country, it continues to be a plausible assumption
due to its porous, generally unmonitored borders. Fraudulent
documentation is easy to locate and inexpensive to purchase.
Given the amount of goods, both legal and contraband, that
pass through Sierra Leone on any given day, it is highly
likely that victims from the sub-region are part of this
traffic through the country.
C. Conditions. Many of the friends and relatives who foster
children put them to work in the home, where they can also be
sexually exploited, or place them on the street to engage in
petty trading, portage, rock breaking or prostitution. Many
of these children do not attend school, or are not enrolled
until they earn enough to help support the family. Some
young women are also brought into a home for domestic
employment, but are then expected to act as a wife in terms
of sex and child rearing. Victims are often exposed to
physical, sexual and verbal abuse, demeaning behavior, and
coercion. Sometimes children remain on the street because
they are afraid to return to their relative's house.
D. Vulnerability. Migration in Sierra Leone is a norm driven
by the dire economic situation in the country. Sierra Leone
ranks very low on the Human Development Index, including last
in terms of maternal/child health and also has the world's
highest rate of infant mortality. Children and youth, defined
as 15-35 years in age, constitute approximately two-thirds of
the country's population of over 6 million. Traumatic
experiences during the 1991-2001 war, shattered extended
family networks and social structures, and extreme poverty
make it much more difficult to protect children.
Within this context, trafficking is difficult to combat,
because impoverished parents face difficult decisions with
regards to how to care for and educate their children.
Cultural norms, as well, add to the complexity. Child
fostering, for example, by placing children with wealthier
relatives, is common. While many children benefit from such
arrangements and receive education and assistance that they
would have lacked had they remained at home, it is a system
that is vulnerable to abuse and can lead to trafficking.
Many young women are also vulnerable in this unstable
economic environment. Unemployment in both the urban and
rural regions has created a state of desperation for women
and their families. Many trafficking victims in Sierra Leone
are either "war widows" or were formally abducted during the
war to be used as "war wives," and are now considered
undesirable by men in their communities. These women and
their families are often eager to accept any offers to
alleviate poverty, whether it is through marriage proposals,
employment or educational opportunities.
The deaf population is also particularly vulnerable due to
lack of income-generating opportunities and their inability
to speak out about abuse.
E. Traffickers. Relatives, family friends, and other
individuals with power in the community reportedly traffic
children to Freetown and other urban areas with false
promises to parents that the children will be sent to school.
Women are reportedly trafficked in a similar way, with
promises of marriage or employment. Internal trafficking of
this kind does not require travel documents, and given the
porous nature of the borders throughout West Africa, even
trafficking in and out of Sierra Leone can often be conducted
with little to no documentation.
There have been no reports of large international organized
crime syndicates, marriage brokers, or employment, adoption,
travel or tourism agencies conducting trafficking activities
in Sierra Leone, though some service providers suspect there
may be a presence.
GoSL Anti-TIP Efforts
A. Acknowledgment. The government acknowledges that
trafficking is a problem. However, the country continues to
suffer severe ramifications from a civil war during which it
was a failed state. There is an overwhelming lack of
capacity in the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL), and many
competing critical needs. The government is effectively
bankrupt, with donors continuing to provide a majority of the
country's budget. However, donor interest in Sierra Leone is
gradually decreasing as the country is ever furthered removed
from headlines. Corruption is entrenched. The police,
judiciary, and social-welfare institutions are critically
understaffed, have very limited budgets, and have trouble
meeting their basic mandates. While the government
identifies that TIP is an issue, finding resources and
building capacity to combat the problem will remain a serious
problem well into the future.
B. Agencies. The MOSWGCA and SLP take the lead on
anti-trafficking efforts in Sierra Leone, and the Ministry of
Justice is the designated co-chair with the MOSWGCA of the
Inter-Ministerial Committee on Trafficking and the TIP Task
Force. The Inter-Ministerial Committee also includes the
Ministries of Education, Internal Affairs, Information,
Labor, Health, Foreign Affairs, Local Government, Youth, and
Tourism. The TIP Task Force includes representatives from
all ministries in the Inter-Ministerial Committee as well as
the Principal Immigration Officer, the Commissioner of Police
in charge of Crime Services, the Ombudsman, and
representatives from civil society and international
While the anti-trafficking law directly identifies the
ministries to be involved, few send representatives to the
meetings. One reported reason for lack of government
involvement in the Task Force continues to be the issue of
payment for attending meetings. Section 7 of the
anti-trafficking law stipulates that members of the Task
Force should be paid an allowance determined by the MOSWGCA,
Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, in consultation
with the Minister of Finance. Given that the latter has
never provided funding for any anti-trafficking related work,
and that the Ministry of Justice is one agency that rarely
attends Task Force meetings despite its co-chair status, the
issue of payment has never been addressed. It is reported
that Ministries will not send representatives since they will
not be paid.
The participant ratio for the Task Force has thus become
heavily weighted towards international and non-governmental
organizations. While their participation is vital to the
activities of the Task Force, lack of government
participation by all but a few ministries hinders the ability
of the Task Force to effectively coordinate and encourage
other government efforts. FAAST, with USG funding, has
sought to tackle this problem in two ways: First, it has
resuscitated and expanded a network of village parent groups
that were first established in the period of 2004-06 but had,
in absence of donor funding 2006-08, become less active.
There are now 38 such groups located in all parts of Sierra
Leone, playing a role in identifying and caring for
trafficking victims. Second, working with IOM and other
NGOs, FAAST has crafted an amendment to the 2005
anti-trafficking law which is intended to centralize
trafficking responsibility more clearly in the MOSWCGA. The
amendment would disband the inter-ministerial committee,
which is at present a logjam, and have the task force report
to the MOSWCGA. The amendment would dispense with any
payment for attending meetings. It is, however, not clear
that the amendment will go forward through numerous
C. Government Limitations. The SLP and MOSWGCA lack
sufficient funding to carry out their basic duties. The
MOSWGCA at the end of 2009 received a quadrupling of its tiny
budget, thanks to energetic activity by its new minister, but
this funding remains inadequate to meet basic needs of the
ministry. Training for staff on the anti-trafficking law or
victim protection is limited and has historically been
conducted by non-governmental and international
organizations. No government-funded victim services exist,
and there are no government-operated shelter services. The
SLP lacks sufficient communications and transportation
infrastructure to effectively carry out investigations or
support services for victims.
There is some stated political will to combat trafficking in
persons, and the increase in the budget of MOSWGCA is a
positive sign, but trafficking is only one of many priorities
for that ministry.
D. Government Monitoring. The TIP Task Force, as mandated by
the Anti-Trafficking Act passed in 2005, is designated to
systematically monitor anti-trafficking efforts (prosecution,
prevention, and protection). In 2009, the task force
continued to meet every other month. While the
anti-trafficking law identifies the ministries to be
involved, few send representatives to the meetings. Those
that participate regularly on the Task Force, however, such
as the MOSWGCA and organizations like IOM, UNICEF, and FAAST,
share information about cases and discuss next steps and
The lack of adequate government involvement in the Task
Force, lack of meetings of the inter-ministerial committee,
and lack of GoSL funding to support initiatives that were
mandated by the anti-trafficking law mean that coordination
remains poor. There is no mechanism in place to adequately
give assessments of anti-trafficking efforts. Information is
not routinely made public; however, the government does make
trafficking-related information available to international
organizations, non-government partners, and others upon
E. Establishing Identity. Procedures exist for issuing
birth certificates, national identity cards, and passports.
However, many identification documents were destroyed during
the war and the ID-card issuance process was not
re-established effectively until 2009. Therefore, many
Sierra Leoneans hold a simple affidavit by which they have
self-attested birth and nationality. Passport fraud is a
F. Government Data Capability. No comprehensive statistics
on the prevalence of trafficking exist due to communication
difficulties with up-country offices, but each organization
keeps records of the victims it serves. The Family Support
Unit headquarters in Freetown has only begun to use data
systems put in place in 2008. Training and resources
continue to be sorely needed to establish better
documentation-collection and will continue to be needed for
the foreseeable future.
A. Existing Laws. Trafficking is first mentioned in the
Constitution of Sierra Leone Act no. 6 of 1991. Section 19
states, "No person shall be held in slavery or servitude or
be required to perform forced labor or traffic or deal in
human beings." Section 20 states, "No person shall be
subject to any form of torture or any punishment or other
treatment which is inhuman or degrading."
The Anti-Human Trafficking Act was signed in August, 2005
(after considerable efforts by donors and service providers).
The law prohibits trafficking for labor, sexual exploitation,
illicit removal of human organs, and exploitation during
armed conflicts. The law covers both internal and
transnational trafficking and is consistent with the Palermo
The Child Rights Act was passed in 2007 (also after
considerable efforts by donors and service providers) and
signed by the President in 2008. This Act brings Sierra
Leone into compliance with the U.N. Convention on the Rights
of the Child. It includes provisions related to children
associated with armed conflict, forced marriage, and
exploitive child labor. Child trafficking is mentioned in
Section 60 (1) (k), as a crime that must be investigated by
the district council and its child welfare department if
identified. Sections 60 (1)(j) and (2) create the same
stipulation for investigating incidents involving children
living with or associating with known prostitutes, other than
The Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2005 also supports the
Anti-Human Trafficking Act in so far as it criminalizes money
or property which is gained through crime. If perpetrators
of human trafficking gain money from the act, they will be
guilty of an additional crime if they attempt to launder such
money by investing it in another financial activity.
Despite the number of laws related to trafficking, many SLP
officers revert to using abduction and harboring charges when
possible. This is a reflection of both an ill-equipped
police force and the cultural environment, which encourages
mediation over prosecution.
B. Punishment of Sex Trafficking. Penalties are the same for
trafficking for labor and sexual exploitation. Convicted
traffickers face up to ten years of imprisonment, fines of 50
million Leones (approximately $13,000) and victim restitution
C. Punishment of Labor Trafficking. All convicted
traffickers face up to ten years of imprisonment, fines of 50
million leones (approximately $13,000) and victim restitution
D. Rape. Under the Offenses Against the Person Act of 1861,
rape of a person over the age of 16 carries a potential
penalty of life imprisonment, which is more severe than the
penalty for sex trafficking. However, such penalties are
rarely brought against perpetrators. Rape is common and
viewed more as a societal norm than a criminal problem. The
law does not specifically prohibit spousal rape.
E. Statistics. Due to poor communication with up-country
facilities, accurate national statistics are not available.
However, FSU reports that it investigated 22 cases of human
trafficking between January and December 2009. FSU could
provide no further information for 2009. However, it began
to use its new database in January 2010 and hopes to have
fuller information in the future. FAAST reports that there
were 28 trafficking victims handed over to FAAST for special
care during 21009, but it estimates that there were 100
victims countrywide who were handled by the newly-formed
Voluntary Parent Groups. According to FAAST, there were three
convictions of traffickers during 2009 and there were three
other cases brought to court, pending a verdict.
F. Training. The government does not provide specialized
training, but does make law enforcement officers and other
government officials available to attend training conducted
by international organizations and local NGOs. IOM, CVT,
UNICEF, and FAAST, among others, provided training to police
officers, border guards, and government officials over the
G. Cooperation with Other Governments. There were reports
that the Government of Sierra Leone cooperated with the
Government of Liberia on one investigation and repatriation
over the last year.
H. Extradition. The Extradition Act of 1974 allows for
extradition of persons subject to crimes committed in the
country of the offense, but there have been no requests to
extradite a suspect for trafficking. The Extradition Act
allows for the extradition of Sierra Leone nationals to other
countries for trial.
I. Government Involvement. There are no known instances of
GoSL authorities facilitating trafficking efforts; however,
prevalent social attitudes and lack of government capacity
and awareness mean that barriers to trafficking are low.
Low-level government officials who forge documents such as
birth, marriage, and death certificates rarely suffer
punishment, but there is no proof that these forged documents
are used to facilitate trafficking. Further, border
officials are low-paid and continue to struggle with the
concept of trafficking versus smuggling. It is possible that
such officials are bribed to enable the easy movement of
people and goods, but a direct link between that kind of
corruption and trafficking cases has yet to be uncovered or
publicized. Additionally, while there have been no cases of
government officials intentionally contributing to the
problem or participating in the act of trafficking, some SLP
officers are suspected of looking the other way, or possibly
tipping off high profile perpetrators, to help aid an escape.
K. Peacekeeping. Sierra Leone is new to peacekeeping
operations, having sent a company to Darfur in 2009. There
have been no reported incidents of trafficking related to
this peacekeeping operation.
L. Sex Tourism. Sierra Leone does not have an identified sex
tourism problem. Inappropriate sexual conduct by tourists or
business people while in the country appears to be
opportunistic, and not the purpose of their visit to Sierra
Leone. There is no law against prostitution and it is
widespread in Sierra Leone. Many women and girls enter into
prostitution independently, often due to economic pressures;
however, there continue to be allegations that female pimps
(kaklat) or relatives recruit girls for prostitution directly
from villages. There is also a small cadre of known pimps in
the Freetown area, and reports of several brothels in
operation, but this is not a dominant characteristic of
prostitution in Sierra Leone. Some women who engage in
prostitution may be doing so out of desperation to escape
from other exploitive situations, such as early marriage or
domestic servitude. Though prostitution is legalized,
prostitutes are sometimes arrested and charged with loitering
A. Protection of Victims. The Anti-Trafficking Act requires
the government to offer protection for victims and witnesses,
though due to a lack of resources, the government relies on
NGO service providers to provide physical protection.
B. Victim Care Facilities. Until 2008, IOM provided a
shelter in Freetown for trafficking victims of all ages. The
government was scheduled to furnish IOM with a new shelter
space, which IOM intended to renovate and turn over to the
MOSWGCA, hoping MOSWGCA would be able to operate the site.
This plan fell through and IOM lost funding, and no shelter
exists at present. IOM has sought to avoid being the primary
assistance system and is working with the MOSWGCA on the
means to fund a shelter under MOSWGCA responsibility.
C. Government Services to Victims. The government does not
provide trafficking victims with legal, medical or
psychological services, or any funding to organizations that
assist trafficking victims. It hosts task force meetings,
and participates in the referral system, but does not provide
a monetary contribution to any NGO efforts. Government
support is nominal, and thus difficult to monetize.
D. Foreign Victims. The government does not provide
assistance to foreign trafficking victims, though foreign
victims would receive the same services from IOM and other
NGOs that domestic victims receive.
E. Long Term. The government does not provide long-term
shelter or housing benefits to victims of trafficking.
F. Referral. The FSUs refer victims to the MOSWGCA when
cases become known to them (MOSWGCA officers are meant to be
located at every FSU but MOSWGCA has not been able to comply
with this legal requirement at many FSUs). Victims are in
turn referred to the newly-formed Voluntary Parental
Associations and thence, in more severe cases, to FAAST.
G. Number of Victims. The FSU database recorded 22 cases of
trafficking in 2009, while FAAST recorded direct assistance
to 28 victims. Approximately 100 victims have been assisted
by the newly-formed Voluntary Parental Groups countrywide.
The SLP acknowledges that its statistics underestimate the
problem, but have no means of ensuring better reporting by
offices in the provinces. FAAST has assisted some victims
who have not fallen under the purview of the FSU.
H. System to Identify Victims. The government's law
enforcement, immigration and social services personnel have a
formal protocol to follow to identify victims of trafficking,
but only a small number of officials have been trained and
know how to follow it. Most high-risk persons (prostitutes,
unaccompanied minors or undocumented immigrants) are not
screened or identified as victims.
I. Rights of Victims. The rights of victims are generally
respected, though there is still confusion among authorities
on what constitutes trafficking. It is thus likely that many
victims fall through the cracks and do not receive the care
J. Victim Role. Victims are encouraged to participate in the
legal process, but the general inefficiency of the justice
sector has frustrated these efforts. While victims are
permitted to be active participants in investigations and
court proceedings, many lose patience between the period of
identification and the case going to trial. This can result
in cases being dropped, since most cases cannot be
successfully tried without the victim as a witness. The cost
of transportation is another deterrent preventing victims
from participating fully in a trial, because they must bear
the cost of transportation to the court in order to testify.
An additional problem is that social factors often prevent
women and children who are victims of sexual and other
violence from obtaining justice in the court system. Rape
cases, for example, are often settled out of court by male
family members. Communities often use traditional forms of
justice to address the alleged perpetrators, rather than work
through the formal system. Such social factors can serve as
a barrier for trafficking victims to access the justice they
are entitled to under the anti-trafficking law.
The law does provide for victim restitution, and IOM has
worked with several victims to pursue this, but there is yet
to be a victim who has received any kind of civil damages for
abuse or hardship suffered during their trafficking
K. Training. The government does not provide training on
identifying trafficking victims, though officials are
permitted to attend training sessions offered by NGOs and
IOs. The Government does not provide training to its
embassies and consulates in foreign countries, nor does it
encourage its embassies and consulates to develop ongoing
relationships with NGOs that serve trafficking victims.
L. Repatriated Victims. The government does not provide
assistance to its repatriated nationals, though victims do
receive assistance upon arrival from IOM.
M. IOs/NGOs and Victims. International organizations and
NGOs provide protection services, awareness training,
vocational training, and counseling. They include UNICEF,
IOM, FAAST, CVT, International Rescue Committee, Save the
Children, Defense for Children International, CARITAS, GOAL
SL, JSDP, Human Rights Youth Coalition, Don Bosco Fambul,
Women in Crisis Movement, Christian in Action Development
Agency, FAWE, RADA (Rehabilitation and Development Agency),
ENCISS, APEGS (Agriculture Production Extension and General
Services), CARD (Community Action for Rural Development), and
Journalists for Human Rights. Local authorities generally
cooperate with these organizations as they depend on them to
provide services the government cannot afford.
A. Campaigns. The government did not have the resources to
conduct anti-trafficking information or education campaigns
during the reporting period, but through the TIP Task Force
coordinated efforts by FAAST, IOM, and CVT. Primarily with
USG funding, these organizations continued to conduct
training for police prosecutors and officers, both in the
field and at the Cadet Training School, MOSWGCA employees,
chiefs, magistrates, faith-based organizations, and local
colleges. NGOs also worked extensively with sex workers and
targeted communities in boarder and mining regions.
B. Monitoring Patterns. The government does not appear to
monitor immigration and emigration patterns for evidence of
C. Coordination. The TIP Task Force is the primary mechanism
for coordination between all relevant agencies, though it is
scarcely attended on the government side, outside the primary
agency MOSWGCA. The government has a single focal point on
TIP within the MOSWGCA, through the TIP Secretariat, that
coordinates all anti-TIP efforts. A significant increase in
the budget of MOSWGCA in November 2009 (from a quarter
million to one million dollars) will hopefully have a small
positive impact on the ministry's reach and effectiveness.
The relationship between government officials and
organizations is generally a cordial one, though the onus is
often placed on non-governmental actors to conduct activities
and maintain momentum. The apparent lack of interest by
various government ministries creates some tension between
organizations working to address TIP and ministries that will
not engage on the issue.
D. Plan of Action. The government has a national plan of
action, which was created by the Task Force in conjunction
with an ECOWAS consultant in 2007, but it has languished due
to a lack of support, funding, and resources within the
MOSWGCA. In 2009, Sierra Leone signed the Regional Policy on
the Protection and Assistance to Trafficked Persons approved
by the regional grouping of West African states ECOWAS.
E. Government Measures against Commercial Sex Acts. The
government has not taken efforts during the reporting period
to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.
F. Government Measures against Child Sex Tourism. The
government has not taken efforts during the reporting period
to reduce participation in international child sex tourism by
nationals of Sierra Leone.
G. Peacekeeping Measures. The Government of Sierra Leone did
not conduct screening for the personnel it deployed to the UN
mission in Darfur. However, various types of US-sponsored
training were conducted in preparation for this deployment,
all of which required Leahy human-rights vetting. Therefore,
within the eight months leading up to the unit's departure,
virtually everyone was vetted at one time or another, to
include the unit's commander.
A. Other Governments, Multilateral, Civil Society. The
government has not undertaken bilateral arrangements with
other governments specific to trafficking. Sierra Leonean
civil society, while active on human-rights issues, has not
specifically organized itself on trafficking.
B. International Assistance to Other Governments. N/A
Since the conclusion of war in 2001, during which use of
children as soldiers was common, Sierra Leone has been
assiduous in monitoring the age of recruits into the armed
forces, to ensure they are over 18.