Liberia Scores Better Grade in Latest US State Department’s Human Trafficking Report
Monrovia – Liberia has moved up to Tier 2 of the United States’ human trafficking report after being on the Tier 2 Watch List for three years.
According to a release from the US Embassy in Monrovia, “the Government of Liberia has demonstrated sufficient progress to be elevated” after evaluation by the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIPs).
“This outcome reflects the dedicated efforts of the Government of Liberia to fight human trafficking, as well as the achievements possible through U.S.-Liberia partnership,” the release dated June 25 stated, adding that the two nations are “working together”.
Liberia’s progress in the latest TIPs report means a sanction that would have seen the country miss out on over US$100 million in non-humanitarian aid has been significantly averted.
Last year, the US government became very outspoken about Liberia’s underwhelming performance against human trafficking, which is notorious as modern-day slavery.
A visit to Liberia by U.S. Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking-in-Persons (TIPs) John Cotton Richmond in September last year saw a massive shift in the West African nation’s response against TIPs.
It happened after Ambassador Richmond held talks with President Geroge Weah and other government officials, who then pledged support for increased efforts against human trafficking.
At the time, the State Department stressed improvements in the existence of a verifiable action plan accompanied by a referral mechanism; the provision of a budgetary allotment to combat trafficking in persons; increased prosecution and willingness to investigate cases which could identify potential victims; and coordinated leadership on tackling trafficking.
Earlier, a 2019 report revealed that Liberia was not fully meeting the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, although it also hinted that the government was making “significant efforts” like “supporting victims during trial by providing transportation, security, and shelter; organizing public awareness events with high-level officials; and training more law enforcement officials on identifying and investigating trafficking.”
Those inroads have now paid off as reflected in the 2020 report, which shows that Liberia has exhibited “a steadfast willingness to tackle the problem of human trafficking—especially domestic forced labor of children—by reinvigorating the Trafficking in Persons Task Force, led by the Ministry of Labor”.
The release also added that the country is increasing investigations, increasing the identification of victims, and providing budgetary support to anti-trafficking efforts.
“These successes required the sustained cooperation of investigators, prosecutors, law enforcement officers and trainers, and labor officials, and show that even under difficult circumstances, when resources appear scarce, the public sector and civil society can work together to protect citizens and promote accountability,” the release said.
The Embassy lauded the Ministry of Labor including the TIPs Task Force, the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, the Liberia Immigration Service, the Liberia National Police (LNP), the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection, the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency, the Ministry of Justice, and the LNP Transnational Crimes Unit, and civil society organizations and human rights organizations, among others for working to tackle human trafficking in Liberia.
“That support has encouraged police, immigration, and border officials to investigate possible crimes, social workers to place child victims in shelters, and prosecutors to take up cases,” the release added
“These are important first steps, and the Embassy looks forward to working alongside the member agencies of the Trafficking in Persons Task Force as they continue to improve their ability to combat human trafficking and child labor.”
Responding to the new report, the MOL said that the progress puts Liberia in a better position to “retain access to US government’s development aid including Millennium Challenge Corporation, USAID and other Departments that reach out directly like DARPA that is working on NPHIL’s headquarters.”
Recounting some of the government’s efforts against human trafficking, Deputy Minister of Labor for Manpower Development, Phil Dixon said many practical steps were taken to thwart internal and external trafficking activities.
“On multiple occasions, the LIS has foiled attempts to traffic Sierra Leoneans, using our territory, with two of those occasions having more than 15 potential victims,” wrote Minister Dixon in a text message to FrontPageAfrica.
“On another occasion, the Government of Liberia rescued a Nigerian who had been trafficked to Ivory Coast, after she was told that the Liberian authorities at the border were her only option for safety. She is now in her country.”