LIBERIA: Tier 2
Liberia is a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Most trafficking victims originate from and are exploited within the country’s borders, where they are subjected to domestic servitude, forced begging, sex trafficking, or forced labor in street vending, alluvial diamond mines, and on rubber plantations. Traffickers typically operate independently and are commonly family members who promise poorer relatives a better life for their children. Children sent to work as domestic servants for their wealthier relatives are vulnerable to forced labor or, to a lesser extent, sexual exploitation. Orphaned children remain susceptible to exploitation, including in street selling and prostitution. A small number of Liberian men, women, and children are subjected to human trafficking in other West African countries, including Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria. Victims of transnational trafficking come to Liberia from neighboring West African countries, including Sierra Leone, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, and Nigeria, and are subjected to the same types of exploitation as internally trafficked victims. Women from Tunisia and Morocco have been subjected to sex trafficking in Liberia. During the reporting period, Liberian women were subjected to forced labor in Lebanon. Bribery at border stations, capacity issues, and generalized corruption within the judiciary continued to hamper trafficking investigations and prosecutions.
The Government of Liberia 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, an outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease severely affected the country and overwhelmed the government’s resources and capacity to address effectively a variety of issues, including trafficking in persons. The government did not prosecute or convict any trafficking offenders during the reporting period and failed to develop trafficking-specific protective services for victims. Additionally, despite the country’s significant internal trafficking problem, the government did not identify any domestic trafficking victims during the reporting period and has yet to ever successfully convict a Liberian national for trafficking in persons. However, in March 2015, the government sent a high-level delegation to Lebanon to rescue 10 Liberian women subjected to domestic servitude and conducted an investigation to determine whether other Liberian women and girls are currently in similar circumstances. The government also continued to conduct several trainings and workshops for law enforcement and maintained public awareness-raising efforts.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR LIBERIA:
Continue prosecuting trafficking offenses and convicting and punishing traffickers, with an increased focus on cases involving Liberian nationals; vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict government officials complicit in trafficking offenses; provide additional training to law enforcement officials and magistrates on the application of the anti-trafficking law and differentiation of trafficking crimes from cases of human smuggling or kidnapping; implement and educate NGOs, law enforcement personnel, magistrates, and other relevant officials on the “Direct Assistance and Support to Trafficked Victims Standard Operating Procedures,” so these officials learn proactively to identify and provide protective services to trafficking victims; establish and adequately fund a shelter specifically for trafficking victims; and increase efforts to educate the public about the dangers of human trafficking.
The government demonstrated a decrease in anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Liberia’s 2005 Act to Ban Trafficking in Persons prohibits all forms of transnational and internal trafficking. It prescribes a minimum sentence of one year’s imprisonment for the trafficking of adults and six years’ imprisonment for the trafficking of children, but does not include a maximum sentence for the trafficking of adults. The prescribed penalties for the sex and labor trafficking of children are sufficiently stringent, but the prescribed penalties for sex and labor trafficking of adults are not, nor are they commensurate with those prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape. The government reported three investigations, no prosecutions, and no convictions during the reporting period, which represented a decrease from six investigations, two prosecutions, and two convictions in the previous reporting period. One of the investigations, which involved 10 Liberian women who were allegedly subjected to labor trafficking in Lebanon by a Lebanese national, was pending at the close of the reporting period. In March 2015, the government sent a high-level delegation to Lebanon to rescue the women and continue the investigation in country. To date, the government has not convicted any Liberian trafficking offenders under Liberia’s anti-trafficking law, despite the country’s significant internal trafficking problem.
All section heads of the Liberia National Police (LNP) received basic training on how to report suspected trafficking cases to the Women and Children Protection Section (WACPS), which had the lead in investigating such crimes; however, LNP staff did not receive specialized training in investigating human trafficking crimes. WACPS continued to provide a mandatory three-week anti-trafficking training for all of its new officers. During the reporting period, the anti-trafficking taskforce conducted several trainings for 160 law enforcement and community leaders focused on the identification of victims and their traffickers; these workshops were jointly funded by the government and an international organization. Additionally, government officials conducted follow-up monitoring trips to determine the level of service delivery provided by the previously-trained law enforcement officers. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses.
The government maintained modest efforts to identify and protect victims of human trafficking. It identified 10 trafficking victims, all of whom were adults subjected to forced labor; this is a decrease compared with the previous reporting period, during which the government identified 41 trafficking victims. In March 2015, the government rescued 10 Liberian women who were subjected to domestic servitude in Lebanon; the government repatriated the women, provided them with medical care and counseling, and placed them in a safe house. Despite the significant internal trafficking problem within the country, the government neither identified nor provided services to any internal trafficking victims during the reporting period. There remained no government-run shelters or safe homes specifically for trafficking victims in Liberia, and the government continued to rely heavily on NGOs and civil society groups to provide basic assistance and financial support to victims. Nonetheless, the government allocated the equivalent of approximately $15,000 toward victim protection and assistance in 2014 and additional funds in 2015 to rescue and rehabilitate victims from Lebanon. The government failed to implement fully its official standard operating procedures for trafficking victim support during the reporting period. The government provides legal alternatives to removal to countries in which victims would face retribution or hardship, such as temporary residency, on a case-by-case basis. The 2005 anti-trafficking act absolves victims from responsibility for unlawful acts committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking and there were no reports that victims were punished during the year.
The government sustained modest efforts to prevent trafficking in persons. The government’s anti-trafficking taskforce held monthly meetings and began implementation of the country’s national action plan; however, there was no regular operating budget allocated to the taskforce, hindering the effective implementation of the plan. The Ministry of Labor continued to support anti-trafficking awareness campaigns through radio public service messages and billboards. During the reporting period, the government conducted training for law enforcement, community leaders, and civil society to raise public awareness on human trafficking. The government did not make any discernible efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor or commercial sex acts during the reporting period. The government provided anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel.