Trafficking in Persons Report 2012 - Ghana

GHANA (Tier 2)

Ghana is a country of origin, transit, and destination for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. The trafficking of Ghanaian citizens, particularly children, within the country is more prevalent than the transnational trafficking of foreign migrants. Ghanaian boys and girls are subjected to conditions of forced labor within the country in fishing, domestic service, street hawking, begging, portering, artisanal gold mining, and agriculture. Ghanaian girls, and to a lesser extent boys, are subjected to prostitution within Ghana. Child prostitution, and possibly child sex tourism, are prevalent in the Volta region and are growing in the oil-producing Western regions. Ghanaian women and children are recruited and transported to Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, The Gambia, South Africa, Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States for forced labor and sex trafficking. Women and girls, voluntarily migrating from China, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, and Benin are subjected to commercial sexual exploitation after arriving in Ghana. Citizens from other West African countries are subjected to forced labor in Ghana in agriculture or domestic service.

The Government of Ghana does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The police’s Anti-Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU) received reports of 117 suspected trafficking cases and initiated 91 investigations across Ghana’s 10 regions. Of those 91 investigations, prosecutions were initiated in 16 cases, 29 trafficking offenders were convicted, including three foreign trafficking offenders who were deported. The AHTU identified 409 trafficking victims during the reporting period and the Department of Social Welfare continued its support of a shelter for trafficking victims. The government engaged in anti-trafficking awareness raising activities across the country and drafted a new national action plan on combating trafficking. Despite conducting a large number of investigations and identifying several hundred victims, the AHTU remains under-staffed and under-funded. AHTU officials are the only government officials able to prosecute trafficking cases, and their limited resources impair the government’s ability to adequately address the number of cases brought before it each year.

Recommendations for Ghana: Increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict trafficking offenders, ensuring the AHTU has the necessary resources to achieve appropriate convictions; train law enforcement personnel to identify proactively trafficking victims among vulnerable populations – such as females in prostitution and children working in agriculture – or from emergency calls made to the Ghana Police Service (GPS), and refer them to protective services; increase government funding for protective services to victims and make information about funding allocations available to the public; improve data collection and reporting on victims identified and assisted, and harmonize law enforcement data across the three entities – the Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO), the AHTU, and the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) – responsible for investigating trafficking cases; implement the National Plan of Action against Trafficking, including a clear division of responsibilities and allocation of resources between the EOCO, GIS, GPS, and the AHTU; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.


The Government of Ghana demonstrated progress in its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. The AHTU, the GIS, and the EOCO identified 91 suspected trafficking cases during the last year. The AHTU secured the conviction of 29 traffickers – an increase from four convictions obtained during the previous reporting period. Ghana’s 2005 Human Trafficking Act – amended in 2009 to align the definition of trafficking with the 2000 UN Trafficking in Persons Protocol – prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes penalties of five to 20 years’ imprisonment for all trafficking crimes. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.

In May 2011, 232 Ghanaian law enforcement officials worked with agents from INTERPOL to carry out a three-part operation against child trafficking. Despite reports of some 125 brothels operating in Accra, INTERPOL and Ghanaian law enforcement raided only five. During these raids, authorities removed 55 women and 65 underage female victims, although traffickers were not apprehended. During a second operation in May 2011 officials arrested 30 suspected traffickers in Lake Volta fisheries, leading to the prosecution and conviction of 28 of these trafficking offenders under a child exploitation law; each convicted trafficker received a 16-month prison sentence. In the third action, also in May 2011, law enforcement officers removed three children – one from Ghana and two from Burkina Faso – from a cocoa plantation in Tarkwa and arrested a Burkinabe man for alleged child trafficking; his case remains pending before the court. In January 2012, a court convicted and sentenced a Ghanaian woman to five years in prison for trafficking 11 Ghanaian girls to Nigeria for forced labor and prostitution. In August 2011, the AHTU opened its ninth regional Anti-Human Trafficking Unit in the town of Koforidua for the Eastern Region; however, these units remain under-funded and under-trained. EOCO conducted two training courses for its anti-human trafficking unit and members from the GPS participated in an international workshop on human trafficking. An international workshop on human trafficking, led by a local NGO, trained nearly 50 police officers from the AHTU. The GIS, with assistance from UNICEF and IOM, conducted several training courses on trafficking for immigration officers throughout the country, including training 20 GIS staff in data collection, as well as verification and management skills for trafficked and migrant people. In addition, the training also covered personal identification registration systems and in-depth passport verification and was intended to increase GIS abilities to verify travel documents and detect fraud, especially in cases of suspected human trafficking. Observers note that despite law enforcement’s awareness of growing numbers of child trafficking victims in regions such as the Volta, they often do not take initiative to address a situation unless prodded by an NGO. The government did not report any investigation, prosecution, or punishment of government employees complicit in trafficking-related criminal activities during the reporting period.


The government made limited efforts to protect trafficking victims during the year. The AHTU reported identifying 409 trafficking victims and referred an unknown number of these victims on an ad hoc basis to government and NGO-run facilities offering protective care. The government did not employ formal procedures to identify victims among vulnerable groups, such as women in prostitution or children at work sites. The GPS maintained a 24-hour hotline for reporting crime, including trafficking; it is not known if the hotline received any trafficking-related calls during the reporting period. Immigration officials questioned large groups of travelers suspected to include trafficking victims, and identified 15 victims during the year. Law enforcement budgets did not include provisions for victim support and, as a result, law enforcement officials often used personal funds to assist victims. Through a shelter operated in partnership with the Ghanaian government, IOM reported assisting 20 Ghanaian child labor victims during the reporting period. In Accra, the Department of Social Welfare maintained a multipurpose shelter for abused children, which also cared for an unknown number of trafficked children during the report period. If reintegration with family members is not possible, children may be placed in foster families with approval from the courts; it is unknown whether this occurred in 2011. The Department of Social Welfare paid for all medical costs associated with caring for victims, while IOM and UNICEF sponsored psychiatric rehabilitation and care. The government encouraged victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking offenders, and provided them with protective escorts and legal counsel during trial proceedings. The government continued to offer foreign trafficking victims temporary residency during the investigation and prosecution of their cases and, with the interior minister’s approval, permanent residency if deemed to be in the victim’s best interest; no victims were granted temporary or permanent residency during the year. There were no reports that trafficking victims were penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked.


During the year, the government sustained its efforts to prevent trafficking. With support from an international organization, the AHTU conducted educational outreach campaigns in the Volta region; it also joined with the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs and local NGOs to implement an awareness campaign that reached 500 community members in the Kraboa-Coaltar district in the Eastern Region to warn of the dangers of trafficking. The Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs worked with the police and IOM to air anti-trafficking radio programs in the Upper East, Eastern, and Greater Accra regions. The government also aired human trafficking documentary programs on television. The Human Trafficking Management Board – the inter-sectoral board chaired by the Minister for Women and Children’s Affairs and comprised of government agencies and NGOs – met quarterly and drafted a new national action plan against all forms of trafficking in persons, as the 2006 plan remained unimplemented. Although the government took no discernible measures to decrease the demand for forced labor, it launched a child labor monitoring system in March 2012 to monitor children in the Volta Region as a means of preventing them from being engaged in the worst forms of child labor, including trafficking. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to Ghanaian troops prior to their deployment abroad on peacekeeping missions, though such training was provided to Ghanaian troops by foreign donors. Ghana is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

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