The Anti Human Trafficking Unit of the Eastern Regional Police Command in collaboration with the Ghana Navy have rescued 16 children between the ages of five and 13 allegedly trafficked to an island at Afram Plains to embark on hazardous work, mostly fishing.
The team is still searching for eight more victims trafficked to same location at Edrekpota, an island community, whose foster parents fled with them during an operation on Saturday, April 27, 2019.
The Eastern Regional Police Command had through a recent undercover investigation, gathered with pictorial evidence, the existence of 24 trafficked children, including one girl, engaged in forced labour in the community.
Investigations prior to the operation had revealed that the identified trafficked children, between the ages of 5 and 13, were suspected to have been bought by 11 different boat masters residing in the community.
The Eastern Regional Public Relations Officer, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Ebenezer Tetteh, told The Mirror in an interview that the team also arrested nine out of the 11 suspected foster parents who were keeping the children for hazardous jobs.
The victims and their foster parents are currently in police custody assisting in investigations, he said.
After its failed attempt to rescue the children on the island, DSP Tetteh said the police, assisted by the Navy, intercepted the children at Atimpoku in the Asuogyaman District in the Eastern Region when the foster parents attempted to return them probably to their biological parents.
The children, he said, were suspected to have been trafficked from Ningo Prampram in the Greater Accra Region, Kasoa in the Central Region and Asesewa in the Eastern Region.
DSP Tetteh said the children and the foster parents who were initially taken to the Ho Regional Police would be transported to Koforidua for investigations to begin on April 30, 2019.
Human trafficking Act
The Human Trafficking Act (HTA), 2005, which was developed for the prevention, reduction and punishment of human trafficking for the rehabilitation and reintegration of trafficked persons, frowns on the act.
It defines human trafficking as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring, trading or receipt of persons within and across national borders by the use of threats, force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, the abuse of power, among others.
Ghana prohibits all forms of trafficking through its HTA, which prescribes a minimum penalty of five years’ imprisonment for all forms of trafficking.
According to the AHTU, 61 per cent of all trafficking cases reported in Ghana were labour-related, while 39 per cent were sexual exploitation cases.
Communities along the Volta Lake are notorious for child trafficking.
It is estimated that fishing on Lake Volta, the fourth largest reservoir in the world, accounts for 90 per cent of the total inland fisheries output for Ghana, and approximately 20 per cent of the nation’s total fish catch.
DSP Tetteh said initial investigations indicated that the children were being used to disentangle fishing nets while fishing on the Volta Lake, which was very dangerous.
He gave the assurance that the police would deploy every means to rescue the remaining eight children.
The Eastern Regional Police Command, had, as part of efforts to combat the menace, launched Operation Ablorde (which means Freedom in Ewe) to crack down on the perpetrators and rescue the victims.