SIERRA LEONE: Tier 2
Sierra Leone is a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Victims originate largely from rural provinces and are recruited to urban and mining centers for the purposes of exploitation in prostitution, domestic servitude, and forced labor in artisanal diamond and granite mining, petty trading, portering, rock breaking, street crime, and begging. Trafficking victims may also be found in the fishing and agricultural sectors or subjected to sex trafficking or forced labor through customary practices, such as forced or arranged marriages. Some Sierra Leoneans voluntarily migrate to other West African countries, including Mauritania and Guinea, as well as to the Middle East and Europe, where some are subjected to forced labor and forced prostitution. Children from neighboring West African countries are exploited in forced begging, forced labor, and prostitution. Indian, Sri Lankan, and Chinese men have been subjected to forced labor within Sierra Leone.
The Government of Sierra Leone 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 effectively address a variety of issues, including trafficking in persons. The government did not convict any traffickers, did not provide victim identification data, and the national anti-trafficking taskforce suspended their meetings as officials were reassigned to address the Ebola crisis. However, the government provided anti-trafficking training to law enforcement officers, drafted a national referral mechanism for trafficking victims, and expanded protections for migrant laborers by conducting investigations of recruitment agencies and implementing strict licensing procedures. Sierra Leone also acceded to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SIERRA LEONE:
Increase prescribed penalties for forced prostitution of adults; increase efforts to prosecute trafficking offenses and convict and punish trafficking offenders using the 2005 Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act; in collaboration with civil society organizations, train police and prosecutors to identify, investigate, and prosecute trafficking cases; fund anti-trafficking activities in the national budget and begin allocating funds to relevant entities, such as the national anti-trafficking taskforce; train law enforcement officers and social workers to identify trafficking victims proactively among vulnerable populations, such as women in prostitution, unaccompanied minors, or undocumented migrants, and provide victims with protective services; increase partnerships with NGOs providing assistance to trafficking victims and support their efforts either financially or through in-kind support; improve efforts to collect data on anti-trafficking law enforcement and victim assistance efforts; in collaboration with civil society organizations, increase efforts to raise public awareness about the dangers of trafficking, including adult trafficking; and finalize an updated national action plan.
The government sustained modest anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2005 prohibits all forms of human trafficking and prescribes a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment or a fine of 30 million leones ($6,000) for both sex and labor trafficking offenses. For sentences that include only a fine, penalties are not sufficiently stringent and are not commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes, such as rape. The Sexual Offenses Act of 2012 increased the penalties for child sex trafficking offenses to a maximum of 15 years’ imprisonment without the option of a fine and requires the police to assist victims after receipt of a trafficking complaint and protect vulnerable witnesses.
During the reporting period, the government reported 21 investigations, one prosecution, and no convictions of traffickers, compared with 27 investigations, one prosecution, and zero convictions reported during the previous reporting period. Judicial inefficiency and constant procedural delays required victims to travel frequently to the capital for court appearances, which was difficult and costly; as a result, the vast majority of trafficking cases were not prosecuted. Data collection remained weak, particularly within the judiciary and, therefore, the Ministry of Justice was unable to provide comprehensive law enforcement statistics. In July and August 2014, the government, in collaboration with foreign donors, organized three training workshops for officials and law enforcement officers on victim identification. Additionally, between June 2014 and March 2015, the government provided seven trainings for law enforcement officers on border management, which included information on how to identify trafficking victims. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses during the reporting period; however, corruption, particularly among the judiciary, remained a problem during the reporting period.
The government sustained modest efforts to protect trafficking victims. The government did not gather comprehensive victim identification data during the reporting period and it is unclear how many victims were provided services or referred to NGOs for care. However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Sierra Leonean Embassy in Kuwait identified at least nine women and girls who were subjected to forced labor in Kuwait; the government was working with an international organization to facilitate their repatriation at the end of the reporting period. Although there are no state-run shelters for trafficking victims, the government provided tax exempt status and duty free importation for NGOs, including those providing protective services to trafficking victims. Government-employed social workers and prosecutors also provided psycho-social services and legal representation to victims residing in NGO-run shelters. The national anti-trafficking taskforce drafted a national referral mechanism for trafficking victims and signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Witness Protection and Assistance Unit of the police to increase protection for victims and other witnesses in trafficking cases. The government offers alternatives to removal to countries in which victims would face retribution or hardship, including temporary residency. There were no reports the government detained, fined, or jailed victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking.
The government sustained modest efforts to prevent trafficking. The national anti-trafficking taskforce suspended formal meetings in November 2014, as government officials were reassigned to address the Ebola crisis. However, anti-trafficking prevention efforts continued. The National Commission for Social Action sponsored a radio and newspaper campaign to educate youth on human trafficking and migrant smuggling. In an effort to expand protections for migrant laborers, including foreign workers employed in Sierra Leone and Sierra Leoneans going abroad, the Ministry of Labor and Employment conducted investigations of all recruitment agencies and implemented strict licensing procedures; during the reporting period, the government banned the use of recruitment fees and prohibited foreign nationals from operating recruitment agencies within the country. As a result of one investigation, the government publicly declared one recruitment agency as disreputable; the investigation is still ongoing, but the company’s owners have since fled the country. The government took no discernible efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex or forced labor during the reporting period. The government provided Sierra Leonean troops anti-trafficking training prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions, in collaboration with an NGO and foreign donors. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel. In August 2014, Sierra Leone became a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.