US to Gambia: Investigate gov’t officials in human trafficking

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Department of Trafficking in Persons under the US State Department has called for a vigorous investigation, prosecution, and conviction of human traffickers – including allegedly complicit government officials and child sex traffickers – with sufficiently stringent sentences in The Gambia.

In its 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report, State Department also emphasised the need to train law enforcement and prosecutors “to investigate and prosecute all types of trafficking, and ensure they have the resources to do so”.

The Gambia has for years been designated as a source and destination country for trafficking in persons. However, under former regime, official corruption and complicity could not be exposed due to cover up by officials higher up in government.

For example, a leaked document shows that the Honorary Gambian consulate in Lebanon officially facilitated the trafficking of dozens of young women from Banjul to Lebanon.  On 10th October 2012, one Fatu Cham’s visa application into Lebanon by Gambian Consulate showed a serial number of 006 among tens of others.

Her passport number was PC375902 and the application was signed and sealed by Gambia’s consul to Lebanon at the time, Muhammed Bazzi.

However, most of these girls ended up experiencing various forms of abuse and sexual exploitation at the hands of their “employers” and some trafficking agents.  For example, in 2015, one Isatou Jarjue was hit to death by multiple cars in Beirut at about 2am when she attempted to cross a freeway on her way from work.  It was not clear what type of work she does at that hour of the morning.

Others get beaten by their “mistresses” who pay for their travel to Middle Eastern countries, after they were promised of good pay and good care during their work contract.  But once they arrive, they lose their passports and become trapped with no means of return or seeking help in those countries. 

In releasing the 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report, United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said: “Human trafficking is one of the most tragic human rights issues of our time.  It splinters families, distorts global markets, undermines the rule of law, and spurs other transnational criminal activity.” 

The government of The Gambia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons; however, it is making significant efforts to do so, the TIP Report 2017 states.

The government made key achievements during the reporting period; therefore, The Gambia was upgraded to Tier 2 Watch List. 

United States Ambassador to The Gambia, C. Patricia Alsup, offered her congratulations, “Congratulations to the Government of The Gambia, especially NAATIP and all the stakeholders who fight against human trafficking.  I am very pleased that The Gambia’s rating on trafficking in persons has improved over the past year.  I hope that NAATIP and other partners will continue fighting the evil of human trafficking until The Gambia is considered a Tier 1 country.”  

Author: Sanna Camara