Dakar (Senegal), 31 March 2022 – The picturesque island of Gorée off the west coast of Africa is a popular tourist destination. It is also a stark reminder of the continent's tragic past during the Atlantic slave trade.
Behind the elegant houses of former slave traders stands the ‘House of Slaves', where men, women and children were held in squalid conditions before embarking on a long journey to the Americas.
With the support of the United States government, this week, just three kilometres away, in the city of Dakar, Senegal procedures to combat a 21st Century form of human exploitation, trafficking in persons, are being presented.
“The slave trade may have officially ended around 200 years ago, but we are still faced with situations of human exploitation, often in slave-like conditions, in all regions of the world,” says Alline Pedra, a Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officer from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Over the past eight months, UNODC has been working with authorities in Senegal on the development of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the identification of victims and the investigation of trafficking cases.
“This week, UNODC is presenting the SOPs to 25 officials from key institutions that are involved in the country's anti-trafficking efforts. These include police officers, investigators, prosecutors and judges as well as representatives from government ministries and from non-governmental organizations that support and protect trafficking victims,” says Ms. Pedra.
“We are training them how to use these procedures in a variety of settings, such as the identification and interviewing of a victim, making a referral for appropriate assistance and even during investigations and prosecutions.”
Judge Maye Diop, who is the President of the Children's Court of Dakar, says the new Standard Operating Procedures will “enhance cooperation” between the local institutions that are active in the anti-human trafficking field.
“During the training for the SOPs, UNODC managed to bring together the most relevant stakeholders to the same table. It was very interesting and intense.”
Most of the detected cases of human trafficking in Senegal are domestic, mainly involving women and children who are subjected to forced begging, forced labour and sexual exploitation. Other victims are trafficked to neighbouring countries, to North Africa and parts of Europe.
The most common form of human trafficking among children is forced begging, says Issa Saka, National Project Officer at the UNODC Regional Office in West Africa: “Many non-formal religious education institutions and men who claim to be Quranic teachers force children to beg on the streets for long hours and may subject them to physical and psychological abuse.”
He adds: “This practice meets the International Labour Organization's definition of the worst form of child labour. However, the extent of the problem is not known as no formal mapping on a national scale has been conducted.”
Senegal has taken steps to combat human trafficking in the country with the enactment of the law against trafficking in persons in 2005, and the creation of a special National Committee to fight against Human Trafficking (CNLTP) in 2010.
“However, the investigation, prosecution and conviction of trafficking cases remain limited. This is partly due to the complexity of the crime, but also due to the lack of clear and widespread procedures,” says UNODC's Alline Pedra.
“This is why the CNLTP requested our assistance to develop the SOPs. Through the new manual, frontline responders have access to clear guidelines for the identification, investigation, and referral of victims for support and assistance. They are primarily for the Dakar region and potentially for other regions of Senegal too.”
The next step is the official validation of the Standard Operating Procedures by the Government of Senegal.
“The engagement of the participants this week was very positive, and we hope to see the effective use of these procedures to enhance victim identification and investigation of trafficking in person cases in the near future,” says Ms. Pedra.
For Further Information
This “Eyes on Trafficking” story is reprinted from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
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