Sierra Leone | Stopping Human Trafficking Starts With You
|Treacherous journeys across the North African desert|
Last week, 30 young Sierra Leonean migrants were evacuated from the southern Libyan city of Sabha after spending about three months in a dungeon. The group left Sierra Leone in March brimming with high hopes. They'd been promised good jobs in the construction and security sectors in Libya. But according to Africa Review's Kemo Cham, Sierra Leone foreign minister Samura Kamara said the government was treating the matter as a case of human trafficking.
Human trafficking is recruitment and transportation of people from one place to another by using deception or force for the purpose of exploitation.
The 29 men and one woman reportedly paid $500 to unnamed recruiters, who made the arrangements for their travel from Sierra Leone to Libya through Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. When the group finally got to Sabha, 400 miles south of Tripoli, their money and documents were taken away. There were no jobs waiting as their agents had promised.
Hopes dashed, it took weeks for them to get word out about their plight and, according to Cham, several more weeks of campaigning and networking by Sierra Leoneans both in and out of country, on Facebook and Twitter, before last week's evacuation could be carried out.
Most trafficked people aren't as lucky.
In a 2005 Report to Congress, the United States Department of State stated that of 600,000 to 800,000 people trafficked across international borders each year, majority of the victims are sold into forced labor including prostitution, sweatshops, domestic labor, farming, and child armies.
Since 2005, about a dozen traffickers have received sentences of up to 22 years in Sierra Leone, thanks to monitoring, transparency, and accountability on issues of human trafficking. Still, the problem as we see in the case of the “Libya 30” is far from eliminated.
The International Organization for Migration which provides humanitarian assistance to migrants in need and assisted with evacuating the group has noted that vulnerability including poverty, unemployment and lack of economic opportunity are some of the main reasons people become victims of trafficking.
In today's interview, Sewa News asked how Sierra Leonean job creators can help eliminate some of the factors that cause people to get fooled into making treacherous journeys across the North African desert in search of jobs.
Will the Sierra Leonean government provide incentives to companies that employ former trafficked persons—encouraging corporate social responsibility and including the business community in drafting legislation and formulating policies?
Sewa News: Can the business community in Sierra Leone help counter trafficking?
Fodson Foday Kamara: I think in partnership with government homegrown businesses should establish business unions to create space for the very important issues affecting our young people. We have to create more opportunities for sustainable jobs to absorb our young people; the environment to deepen and broaden the attraction to private sector investment. There should be a system in place to promote the acquisition of skills, creativity and innovation to make our youth competitive in the job market.
There is no doubt that as a country we face challenges, but we have to do more to create jobs for people. The private sector can create more jobs. We should encourage public-private partnership; strengthen the business climate for more indigenous participation, and encourage banks to provide more favorable financing for businesses. I strongly believe the future will be bright.
Our brothers and sisters also have to do a lot more to secure a better future for themselves and their families, thereby contributing to economic development. We should promote entrepreneurship to the highest level. We should formulate a set of principles to dominate the sub region in business. I am 100 percent confident that we can achieve those goals if we work cooperatively and make the right policies.
Sewa News: The government is already doing quite a lot. What more do you think needs to be done to encourage corporate social responsibility and include the business community in formulating policies?
Fodson Foday Kamara: The government can help by promoting the acquisition of skills, creativity and innovation to make [young people] more competitive. Our government should provide support for the establishment of aggro-based and other industries that use local materials. Government should establish better market and business centers; increase the number of resourced vocational and technical training centers. The government should build employment service centers in Freetown and all the districts. They should work tirelessly to raise awareness and increase focus on service industry skills acquisition. The government should play a significant role in the transition from university and training institutions to the job market.
The government definitely has got a major role to play and help the private sector to create jobs, thereby reducing the rate of unemployment in Sierra Leone. The government should put in place sound economic policies designed to significantly improve the social-economic well being of all Sierra Leoneans.
Sewa News: Can the private sector help raise awareness among policymakers, the public and potential victims; provide technical assistance, training or employ the former trafficking victims?
Fodson Foday Kamara: My vision for homegrown entrepreneurs is for them to play a dominant role in the private sector in providing employment and the supply of goods and services to the nation. We should help homegrown entrepreneurs undertake both short and long term trade and investment businesses in all regions of the country. We should do our utmost in motivating indigenous participation in big businesses and industrial operations in Sierra Leone.
We should help them to establish trade unions to create space for very important issues affecting our people in the business sector. Our focus should be to transform Sierra Leone into a business hub and dominate the sub region in business. These are achievable goals.
I hope that in the near future Sierra Leone will have major corporations controlled by Sierra Leoneans and make our country competitive internationally. We need a lot of small- and medium-sized enterprises in the manufacturing and service sector. I believe the private sector can create more jobs and be the biggest employer in Sierra Leone.
There are opportunities in all sectors. Sierra Leone today is very keen to move up the value chain of all products into semi and full processing. Agriculture offers strong opportunities—aggro processing for cocoa, palm kernel oil. fruit canning and a lot more. Fishing is at its height, over $300 million worth. Tourism offers huge opportunities, affordable housing construction offers a lot of opportunities, mining and oil exploration offer very strong opportunities. The telecommunication and information technology sector offer huge opportunities in Sierra Leone. Transportation also offers strong opportunities.
The Service sector which include commerce, hospitality, financing, leasing, banking and insurance is a pillar of huge opportunities. Education and healthcare sector also offer very strong opportunities. Petty trading—buying and selling goods is also a sector with a lot of opportunities.
There is no doubt that there are formidable challenges, but equally so there are many opportunities that investors. homegrown entrepreneurs and everyone of us can take advantage of.
Our communities can play a significant role by engaging the youth and make them more productive and responsible citizens.The community can help to empower our youth through community commitments in order to maximize their contribution to society. Our communities can help to enforce discipline and regard for acceptable societal norms. Indeed the role of the communities will play a very significant role to sustainable economic development.The communities can formulate and develop several initiatives and programs in response to the needs of youth. Like youth community centers, community libraries, community schools for adults, community colleges as well as vocational and technical community training schools. Absolutely, our communities should do a lot more to promote economic and political development in Sierra Leone.
Finally, our entrepreneurs also have a significant role to play by helping themselves to achieve their goals. In order to be successful in life you need to make a personal decision and commitment to yourself that you want to be successful. Anyone who makes a devoted commitment to be successful will start to do things that are a reflection of who he or she wants to be. Our entrepreneurs should take full advantage of all the opportunities that are available. It is about time more Sierra Leoneans decide and take action.
Our people should learn to have big dreams to make big dreams come true. Everyone's future is created by what he does today. We should encourage our people to choose to be optimistic, and speculate positively. Sierra Leoneans should develop a passion for excellence in what we choose to do.We should be focused, disciplined and stay determined to achieve what we want in life. Our entrepreneurs have responsibilities to take advantage of all the opportunities available.