Trafficking in Persons Report 2010

LIBERIA (Tier 2)

Liberia is a source, transit, and destination country principally for young women and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced labor and forced prostitution. Most trafficking victims originate from within the country’s borders and are forced to work as domestic servants, street vendors, or beggars supporting religious instructors, or are subjected to forced prostitution. Traffickers operate independently and are commonly family members who may promise poorer relatives a better life for their children. Children sent to work as domestic servants for wealthier relatives are vulnerable to forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation. Victims of trans-border trafficking come to Liberia from Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Cote d’Ivoire and are subjected to the same types of forced labor as internally trafficked victims, and are also found on rubber plantations and at alluvial diamond sites. A small number of men, women, and children from Liberia are trafficked to Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, and Nigeria.

The Government of Liberia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so, despite limited resources. The government made limited progress in its efforts to combat trafficking, which it may conflate with people smuggling and fraudulent adoptions. The government showed a lack of commitment, however, on following through with prosecutions of trafficking offenses and training its law enforcement personnel on anti-trafficking skills.

Recommendations for Liberia: Increase efforts to apprehend, prosecute, and punish trafficking offenders; allocate increased funding for basic anti-trafficking law enforcement and victim protection needs; increase the ability of airport security staff to identify potential cases of human trafficking; investigate possible collusion of government personnel in human trafficking; educate judges about the anti-trafficking law; and increase efforts to educate the public about human trafficking.

The Government of Liberia increased law enforcement efforts to combat trafficking during the reporting period. Liberia’s 2005 Act to Ban Trafficking specifically prohibits transnational as well as internal trafficking. Its prescribed penalties of six years’ imprisonment for sex trafficking and 11 years’ to life imprisonment for child sex trafficking are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with other serious crimes such as rape. Its prescribed penalties of one to 20 years’ imprisonment for labor trafficking and a minimum of six years’ imprisonment for child labor trafficking are sufficiently stringent. The government did not convict or sentence any trafficking offenders under this 2005 law. The director of the Women and Children Protection Section of the Liberian National Police reported that police investigated two cases of human trafficking from January to September 2009, though neither resulted in a prosecution. In one of the cases, a Liberian immigration officer bought a boy being trafficked from Guinea for labor, reportedly to insure his safety, and then arrested the offender; immigration authorities repatriated the victim to his home country and the alleged trafficker remains in detention awaiting trial. The government provided no anti-trafficking training to police officers, though some police officials attended training sessions conducted by UNICEF or IOM.

During the past year, the government continued to ensure victims’ access to protection services provided by NGO and international organization-run shelters and orphanages, as a severe lack of resources and personnel limited the Liberian government’s ability to provide those services directly. Foreign victims had the same access to these services as Liberians. There was no specialized care available for trafficking victims. The government attempted to repatriate foreign victims when possible, and victims were offered immigration relief if they wished to remain in Liberia. The government sustained anti-trafficking partnerships with other governments in the region over the reporting period, assisting in the return of several trafficking victims to Sierra Leone and Guinea. The Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force identified 37 cases of human trafficking during the reporting period, with 71 victims. Liberia’s immigration, social services, and law enforcement agencies did not make adequate efforts to proactively identify victims of trafficking among high-risk groups. Under the 2005 Anti-Trafficking Law, victims are not penalized for any immigration-related offense, prostitution, or other unlawful act that resulted directly from trafficking. The government did not discourage victims from assisting with the investigation or prosecution of traffickers. The government did not report any civil complaints by trafficking victims seeking restitution from their exploiters.

The Liberian government sustained modest efforts to prevent trafficking in persons throughout the reporting period. With radio as the preferred medium, the Ministry of Labor continued to run campaigns against trafficking, and also erected billboards around Monrovia to project public messages on the dangers of human trafficking. Immigration officials continued to expel illegal immigrants using falsified Liberian documents, but in general the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization exerted little control over land borders.

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