During the first week of September, IJM supported the Ghana Police Anti-Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU) to rescue two boys who had been victims of trafficking in the fishing industry on Lake Volta. This rescue followed the August arrest of the man who had transported and sold the boys to a fisherman. The AHTU arrested, charged and got bail refused for both the trafficker and the boat master who used the boys for slave labor. The rescued boys are currently in a shelter while the Department of Social Welfare assesses whether it is safe for them to return to their families without risk of re-trafficking.
Of this targeted rescue operation, Ama Amankwah, IJM Ghana Director of Legal, said, “These children were abused and forced to work in dangerous conditions. We are delighted that the courts have denied bail in these cases, and are deeply encouraged by the leadership and determination of the AHTU in pursuing cases of child trafficking on Lake Volta. These strong actions to arrest traffickers and deny bail send the message that such abuse will not be tolerated in Ghana.”
On September 5, the AHTU secured a trafficking conviction in one of the cases they had investigated independently of IJM – another strong indicator that the tide is beginning to turn in Ghana. As rescue and arrest operations lead to convictions, traffickers who had formerly thought nothing of abusing children for profit will begin to realize that it is not worth the risk.
IJM Ghana has supported police to rescue 100 children so far in 2017. In addition to the rescue in the first week of September, IJM provided support to the AHTU to conduct an operation in July which saw 43 children rescued and brought to safety. Two other operations earlier this year led to freedom for 54 suspected victims of slavery.
One of the boys rescued in July summarized his childlike enthusiasm for his new found freedom during a conversation with IJM staff: “Thank you for taking me off the lake, now all I need is a soccer ball.”
Dozens of children will now be free to live their lives as children should; playing with friends, going to school, and dreaming of bright futures.