Ghana is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. The trafficking of Ghanaians, particularly children, within the country is more prevalent than the transnational trafficking of foreign migrants. Ghanaian boys and girls are subjected to forced labor within the country in fishing, domestic service, street hawking, begging, portering, artisanal gold mining, and agriculture. Ghanaian girls, and to a lesser extent boys, are subjected to prostitution within Ghana. Child prostitution is prevalent in the Volta Region and is growing in the oil-producing Western regions. Ghanaian women and children are recruited and transported primarily to Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, The Gambia, South Africa, Israel, Syria, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States for forced labor and forced prostitution. Women and girls voluntarily migrating from primarily Vietnam, China, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, and Benin are subjected to commercial sexual exploitation after arriving in Ghana. Citizens from other West African countries are subjected to forced labor in Ghana in agriculture or domestic service. During the reporting period, there was an emergence of fraudulent recruitment agencies that advertised locally for jobs abroad, generally in the domestic service and retail sectors; as a result, an increased number of Ghanaian women began migrating to the Middle East, with some subjected to forced labor or forced prostitution upon their arrival. Ghanaian men were recruited under similar pretenses to the same region and subjected to forced labor in the domestic worker sector and forced prostitution. Ghana is increasingly used as a transit point for West Africans who are subjected to sex trafficking in Europe, especially Italy and Germany.
The Government of Ghana does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the reporting period, in spite of not receiving an operating budget, the highly motivated Anti-Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU) of the Ghana Police Service (GPS) achieved more investigations, prosecutions, and convictions related to trafficking offenses compared to the previous year and conducted anti-trafficking training for 30 police officers. However, the government did not allocate any funding to the AHTU, forcing the unit to rely on foreign donors and NGOs to undertake its law enforcement efforts. Additionally, for a third year in a row, the government did not provide anti-trafficking training to prosecutors, despite repeated acknowledgments that such training was desperately needed. The government did not provide any funding to its two shelters, which remained in serious and dangerous conditions and unable to provide even basic services and security to residents. It also failed to provide any funding to carry out any anti-trafficking prevention activities, resulting in the dissolution of the Human Trafficking Management Board (HTMB).
Recommendations for Ghana:
Continue to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, including cases involving labor trafficking, and convict and punish trafficking offenders; provide the police’s AHTU adequate resources to conduct law enforcement efforts; train law enforcement personnel to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations—such as women in prostitution and children working in agriculture—and refer them to protective services; provide trafficking-specific training to prosecutors and other judicial personnel; adopt the legislative instrument to effectively implement the 2005 Human Trafficking Act; provide sufficient government funding for protective services to victims, including to the Human Trafficking Fund; ensure the maintenance of government-operated shelters; improve data collection and reporting on victims identified and assisted; take appropriate measures to regulate the activity of licensed and unlicensed recruitment agencies; and reinstate the Human Trafficking Management Board and provide adequate resources to the board to implement the national plan of action against trafficking.
The government demonstrated increased anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The 2005 Human Trafficking Act—amended in 2009 to align its definition of human trafficking with that of the 2000 UN TIP Protocol—prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes penalties of five to 20 years’ imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government reported conducting 140 trafficking investigations, initiating 20 prosecutions, and securing six convictions; an increase from the previous reporting period, when it reported 75 investigations, seven prosecutions, and three convictions. All 20 prosecutions involved sex trafficking crimes; there were no prosecutions of suspected labor trafficking offenses during the reporting period. The convicted traffickers received sentences ranging from 18 months to 15 years’ imprisonment. However, the AHTU of the GPS, a unit made up of police officers and prosecutors, was responsible for the vast majority of these investigations, prosecutions, and convictions but did not receive an operating budget during the reporting period and relied on funding and significant support from international and local donors to conduct investigations. Officials from the unit were unable to act on many suspected trafficking reports because they lacked basic resources, including vehicles and fuel, to conduct investigations outside the Greater Accra Region.
Although officials acknowledged that prosecutors lacked training and resources to prosecute trafficking cases fully, no prosecutors have received specific anti-trafficking training since 2011. In October 2013, the AHTU conducted specific anti-trafficking training for 30 police officers; this training was funded by an international donor, while the facilities and trainers were provided by the AHTU. The government did not support any other specialized anti-trafficking training for government officials during the reporting period, although new recruits in the Ghana Immigration Service and the GPS received training on trafficking-related topics as part of their basic introductory training. For more than two years, government officials have cited the need for the passage of a “legislative instrument” to apply the 2005 Human Trafficking Act more effectively; however, the draft document was again neither finalized nor adopted. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses; however, reports of general corruption and bribery in the judicial system continued during the reporting period.
The government continued to demonstrate minimal efforts to protect victims. The AHTU identified 182 victims in 2013, a decrease from 262 victims identified in 2012. Although the government referred 157 of these victims to government and NGO-run facilities offering protective care, it is unclear how many victims received direct support from the government. The Human Trafficking Fund, which was established by the 2005 Human Trafficking Act to finance protection efforts, was devoid of funds for the second consecutive year; as a result, shelters operated in serious and dangerous conditions without the resources to make basic repairs and government officials used their own personal funds to assist victims. The Department of Social Welfare (DSW) was responsible for operating the two government supported shelters in Ghana—the Shelter for Abused Children in Osu (Osu Shelter), a multi-purpose shelter, and the Madina Shelter for Rescued Trafficked Children in Madina (Madina Shelter), the only shelter specifically for trafficking victims; however, the DSW did not provide any funding to either of these shelters during the reporting period. Both shelters were in disrepair and lacked any form of functioning security. For example, Madina Shelter staff reported that during the reporting period, the shelter did not have running water and that many of the door locks were broken. Additionally, the Osu Shelter did not have functioning doors on the perimeter wall and no funds to hire a security guard; this created a particularly hazardous situation for the child victims residing at the shelter, as the shelter is located on the same compound as a juvenile correctional facility and there is no structural barrier protecting the victims from criminal offenders. Shelter officials struggled to feed, clothe, and provide general care for trafficking victims. The Osu Shelter had a maximum capacity of 30 child victims and the Madina Shelter only provided shelter to seven trafficking victims during the reporting period; the government therefore relied heavily on international organizations and NGOs to provide services to victims. Both shelters only provided short-term care, generally limiting victims’ stays to three months, although extensions were granted on a case-by-case basis. There were no government-run shelters for adult victims, and although both children’s shelters could accept adult victims if space permitted, adult victims were often placed in hotels and hostels; during the reporting period, an international organization funded the placement of six Vietnamese adult victims in a hotel, because the government was unable to provide the funding for their stay.
The government did not employ formal procedures to identify victims among vulnerable groups, such as women in prostitution or children at work sites. The government encouraged an unspecified number of victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking offenders, and provided them with protective escorts and legal counsel during trial proceedings; however, law enforcement officials stated that they did not have the means to provide shelter to witnesses throughout lengthy trials. The government continued to offer foreign victims temporary residency during the investigation and prosecution of their cases and, with the interior minister’s approval, permanent residency if deemed to be in the victim’s best interest; no victims sought temporary or permanent residency during the year. There were no reports that victims were penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked.
The government decreased anti-trafficking prevention efforts. The Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection (MGCSP), which was responsible for overseeing the government’s anti-trafficking efforts, did not receive any government funding to carry out anti-trafficking activities during the reporting period. As a result, the MGCSP was unable to fulfill its mandate to conduct monitoring and evaluation, data collection, and research relating to trafficking. It was also unable to convene the HTMB—the government’s inter-ministerial committee responsible for advising the MGCSP on anti-trafficking policy, promoting prevention efforts, and facilitating the rehabilitation and re-integration of trafficking victims. The HTMB was dissolved due to the lack of funding, and as a result, the government did not have the means to coordinate and oversee national anti-trafficking efforts or finalize and implement a national action plan to combat trafficking. The government participated and assisted in the organization of anti-trafficking information and education campaigns, including sensitization programs in the Volta Region and cocoa-producing communities; however, these efforts were fully funded by foreign donors. State-owned radio and television programs aired anti-trafficking programming. In an effort to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, AHTU continued to conduct a joint operation with Nigeria’s National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons and Other Related Matters, which focused on arresting suspected sex traffickers and potential clients. The government took no discernible measures to decrease the demand for forced labor, despite acknowledging the growing number of unlicensed employment agencies that are increasingly facilitating the trafficking of Ghanaian men and women to the Middle East. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to Ghanaian troops prior to their deployment abroad on peacekeeping missions, though such training was provided to Ghanaian troops by foreign donors.