Latest U.S. State Department Report Reveals Liberia Does Not Fully Meet Minimum Standards For Elimination of Trafficking

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MONROVIA – The United States State Department 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report reveals that the Government of Liberia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.

According to Report, some of the some of the efforts included opening a new shelter for child trafficking victims, initiating an investigation into a high-profile labor trafficking case in cooperation with foreign governments, and allocating funding to NGOs to conduct awareness raising campaigns. 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.

The government identified fewer victims, initiated fewer investigations, prosecuted fewer defendants, and did not convict any traffickers. Law enforcement officials continued to lack adequate resources and understanding of trafficking to effectively investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes. Shelter services for victims remained insufficient, and the government did not support NGOs providing care to victims. Therefore, Liberia was downgraded to Tier 2 Watch List.

The U.S. government, through the report recommended to the government of Liberia to increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking cases, including internal trafficking cases and officials accused of complicity;

Train law enforcement and judicial officials on identifying, investigating, and prosecuting trafficking cases under the 2005 anti-trafficking law;

Amend the 2005 anti-trafficking law to remove the requirement of force, fraud, or coercion in child sex trafficking cases;

Amend the 2005 anti-trafficking law to prescribe penalties for adult trafficking that are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with the penalties for other grave crimes;

Expand victim services—particularly for victims outside the capital, males, and victims requiring long-term care;

Increase financial or in-kind support to NGOs that support trafficking victims;

Train law enforcement, labor inspectors, immigration officials, and social workers on standard victim identification procedures and the national referral mechanism;

Allocate financial and in-kind resources, as feasible, to the anti-trafficking task force;

Increase labor inspections in the informal sector and mining regions to improve identification of trafficking cases, including child forced labor;

Increase efforts to raise public awareness of human trafficking, including internal trafficking;

Screen foreign workers, including Cuban medical workers and Chinese nationals working for Chinese-owned enterprises, for forced labor indicators and refer identified forced labor victims to appropriate services.

According to the report, the government decreased anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The 2005 Act to Ban Trafficking in Persons criminalized some forms of sex trafficking and all forms of labor trafficking and prescribed minimum sentences of one year imprisonment for adult trafficking and six years’ imprisonment for child trafficking, but it did not include maximum sentences.

The prescribed penalties for trafficking of children were sufficiently stringent but those prescribed for trafficking of adults were not. The penalties for child sex trafficking were commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as kidnapping, but those prescribed for adult sex trafficking were not. Inconsistent with international law, the law required a demonstration of force, fraud, or coercion to constitute a child sex trafficking offense, and therefore did not criminalize all forms of child sex trafficking.

As in the past, this year’s Trafficking in Persons Report recommends a number of steps that the Government of Liberia can take to improve its ranking. These include, but are not limited to, increasing efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking cases, including internal trafficking cases and officials accused of complicity; training law enforcement and judicial officials on identifying, investigating, and prosecuting trafficking cases under the 2005 anti-trafficking law; amending the 2005 anti-trafficking law to remove the requirement of force, fraud, or coercion in child sex trafficking cases; prescribing penalties for adult trafficking that are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with the penalties for other grave crimes; and expanding victim services— particularly for victims located outside the capital, males, and victims requiring long-term care.

The Embassy commends civil society organizations for their active involvement in reporting potential trafficking cases and coordinating services for potential victims, especially the Association of Female Sociologists of Liberia, Community Watch Forum, Defence for Children International, National Concern Youth of Liberia, Orphan Relief and Rescue, Samaritan’s Purse, THINK Liberia, World Hope International, and YWCA Liberia.

Although progress on TIP must be led by the Government of Liberia in partnership with civil society, the U.S. Embassy remains committed to providing appropriate support. For example, with funding from the Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) has developed TIP curricula for the Liberian law enforcement and judicial sectors, including a bench book for judges, a handbook for prosecutors, and training for law enforcement officers.

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