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Gambia struggles with elimination of human trafficking

Jul 14, 2021, 11:45 AM

The Gambia remains on Tier Two Watchlist – signifying that The Gambian government does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so, according to the newly-released 2021 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report.

The report, produced annually by the United States Department of State as required by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), ranked The Gambia just above the lowest possible ranking.  

The country’s most serious shortfall is in completing prosecutions of traffickers consistent with the due process and speedy trial rights of the accused. The country did not complete a single criminal case against a defendant accused of trafficking during the 12-month period covered by the report. For the fourth consecutive year, no traffickers have been convicted. Punishing traffickers convicted in a fair trial is an essential component of obtaining justice for trafficking victims.  

The efforts made by the Government of The Gambia include adopting a new national referral mechanism (NRM) and training government officials and service providers on its implementation. The government identified more victims and continued efforts to raise public awareness of trafficking and to train law enforcement and government employees on trafficking. However, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity. Government agencies charged with combating trafficking continued to lack resources and training, and victim services remained inadequate.  

A country can remain at Tier 2 Watch List for only two years and must address identified deficiencies to progress fully to Tier 2 or be automatically downgraded to Tier 3. A downgrade to Tier 3 negatively impacts assistance funding from the United States. We encourage the Gambian Government to expand the work undertaken over the past year and redouble efforts in the following critical areas: increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, including allegations of child sex tourism; direct and fund law enforcement to investigate all reported trafficking cases, including those brought forward by civil society; ensure human trafficking cases are resolved through the judicial system rather than extra-judicial or administrative means. 

Human trafficking represents a threat to international peace and security.  It undermines the rule of law, robs millions of their dignity and freedom, enriches transnational criminals and terrorists, and threatens public safety and national security everywhere.  It is the United States’ sincere desire to continue to partner with the government and the people of The Gambia to ensure that trafficking victims are cared for, and the government of The Gambia uses its rule of law mechanisms to fully enforce Gambian law and bring the perpetrators of such exploitation of human beings to justice.  In this regard, the United States continues to support the work of the Gambian government to combat trafficking via grants to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) which bolster the work of the Gambian government in combatting trafficking.

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