Journalists in the Central Region are demanding improved efforts to prosecute and convict perpetrators of Child Labour and Trafficking (CLaT) to serve as a deterrent.
According to them, traffickers needed to know that they would be punished when arrested; otherwise trafficking would always be lucrative to them.
They noted that though there was a steady increase in the number of trafficking convictions, prosecution remained lengthy and the number of convictions was disproportionately low, which did not encourage people to report cases to the Police.
The journalists expressed these sentiments at a media forum on their contribution towards combating CLaT, organised by the Friends of the Nation (FoN) at Cape Coast, on Friday.
They maintained that a lot more needed to be done to address the needs of at-risk demographics, from training law enforcement officers to recognising potential trafficking situations, and also to building shelters and improving protective services that catered for victims.
They also called for stronger partnership among Government agencies, the private sector, civil society organisations, faith-based groups, community watch groups and academic institutions against human trafficking.
They however said, the institutions must be adequately resourced to prioritize strategically and put in place interventions that would bring about real social change.
The journalists were of the view that more sensitisation and education be done to clearly distinguish between what constituted child’s work and child labour.
Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Irene Oppong, Central Regional Commander of the Anti Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU) of the Ghana Police Service called for the establishment of bigger shelters as the country stepped up efforts to fight child trafficking.
She said due to the absence of shelters, many victims were prematurely discharged back into their communities, which affected their ability to recover and assist the Police in prosecution.
“We rescued about 35 children from being trafficked to Yeji this year, but we had to release them back to their families because we did not have available shelter to keep them” she said.
“When it happens like this, we cannot do thorough investigation. So we are forced to take their statements and send them back to their communities. When they go back to the communities, they return with different stories contrary to their statements, which makes it difficult to prosecute the suspects” she added.
ASP Oppong said the Police in the Region regularly conducted outreach programmes in communities to educate people on the CLaT issues as part of their efforts to eliminate the practice from the region.
“Due to the seriousness that the Police Command attaches to this problem, all Divisions and District Commands in the region will have an AHTU with trained personnel” she said.
She said since the act was done in secret, it was difficult for the Police to know about them and urged the people and the communities where such acts were prevalent to volunteer information on suspected trafficking issues to the appropriate institutions.
Mr Kwesi Johnson, CLaT Co-coordinator at FoN, said institutions and agencies working for the elimination of CLaT in the country must be strengthened and urged government to demonstrate strong commitment and action to deal with the canker.
Mr Johnson observed that poverty was the driving force behind CLaT, and that, declining fish harvest had also deepened poverty in coastal communities, especially where there were no other viable means of livelihood.
He however insisted that, this was not an excuse for them to continue indulging in child trafficking, adding that, “children’s rights are human rights and should be treated as such”.