Monrovia – The Ministry of Justice through its Child Justice Sector says, it is keen on ensuring that anti-child trafficking measures are effective in Liberia.
Child Justice Section Coordinator and Program Manager J. Alben Greaves told FrontPage Africa Tuesday that an exit Clarence procedure has been put in place in ensuring that children –adopted, special medical needs and those accompanied by non-biological parents - traveling out of Liberia meet a specific need.
Mr. Greaves said the decision to put in place an anti-child trafficking procedure is intended to ensure that Liberia conforms to national and international standards that mandate the Ministry of Justice to issue immigration parents to adoptive parents leaving Liberia with adoptees.
“Since then, the child justice section has exercised due diligence over the years in the issuance of exit clearance to children traveling out of the country without their biological parents, special medical needs and adopted children,” Mr. Graves averred.
This according to him resulted from several concerns from biological parents of adoptees on the wellbeing of children leaving the country.
Liberia is a signatory to several international protocols and has a Trafficking in Person Act, Children’s Law, and Adoption Law among other legal instruments but yet still faced a challenge with the implementation of laws protecting children.
Greaves said the Child Justice Sector of the Ministry of Justice and UNMIL sees it important that adoptive parents, special medical needs children and children traveling without their biological parents obtain Exit Clarence before taking children out of Liberia in order to prevent child trafficking.
Since the lifting of the 2009 temporary moratorium on adoption, the Child Justice Coordinator has outlined significant gains made by the Ministry of Justice in juvenile diversion programs and the issuance of exit Clarence for children leaving Liberia.
These gains according to Greaves were successful through a child justice program supported by UNMIL and UNICEF.
The project according to him, supports government in enhancing the juvenile justice system in Liberia to strengthen diversion program and adoption procedures including the exit clearance.
He placed the number of Exit clearances issued by the Ministry of Justice for children leaving Liberia at 193, while 152 juvenile have also been released from prison between the period January to December, 2017.
According to him, 15 of the 193 exit clearances issued were squarely directed at adoption cases, another 7 were special needs while 171 were regular cases.
But the exit clearance measure is one key aspect of his operation which according to him, has driven the attention of the United Nations since a committee was set up by President Sirleaf for anti-child trafficking procedure.
Greaves noted: “Of recent, the United Nations saw interest in the exit clearance measures and decided to support this section so that we become effective. Children travelling out of the country need protection”
He named the slow pace in effectively creating awareness on anti-child trafficking as a challenge for the Ministry of Justice, while focus on the Roberts International Airport as the only exit point remains a challenge.
“Anyone travelling from the country with a child will need some clearance to show that you have some authorization from the biological parent to travel with that child.”
“Trafficking is difficult to detect but we know that these things happen, even internally our challenge had been how to work on it. Even the borders had been a challenge but with the airports, we’ve been very successful on that,’ Greaves stated.
He at the same time furthered that 690 cases have been successfully mediated within the 15 counties at police level, followed by a training of 10 social workers and 33 women and children protection officers of the Liberia National Police on basic social work skills, since the program was initiated.
Greaves expressed delight over donations of twenty three motorbikes, computers and other supplies from the United Nations Mission in Liberia.
More besides, the Child Justice Sector Coordinator said another accomplishment was the conduct of the monthly child justice working forum meetings, that encompasses government line ministries as well as civil societies and international partners, which focus on child protection.
He however named lack of direct intervention for rehabilitation of juvenile lawbreakers, lack of budgetary constraints to support the Child Justice Section within the national budget, lack of implementing provisions children’s law and limited awareness on anti-trafficking measures among justice actors as some factors posing constraints to the Child Justice Sector at the Ministry of Justice.
At the same time, Mr. Greaves believes that the lack of database to track juvenile cases at depots, age verification du to lack of birth certificate, lack of separate facility for juvenile at prison and limited awareness about “one stop centers” in communities as other factors affecting the improvement of the sector.
At the same time, Mr. Greaves maintained that Liberia Justice system would experience a new dimension if key factors outlined by his sector are taken into consideration.
Meanwhile, Greaves wants the George Weah administration take into account key policies in strengthening the Child Justice sector at the Ministry of Justice as well as improving the capacity of the border counties.