ECOWAS experts adopt Action Plan against human trafficking

Dakar- Senegal (PANA) -- ECOWAS experts ended a two-day meeting in Accra, the Ghanaian capital Wednesday, agreeing a political declaration and Plan of Action for combating trafficking in human beings in the sub-region.
The one-year Plan of Action, to be implemented between 2002 and 2003, commits Member States to set achievable goals and objectives towards eradicating the scourge, involving organised criminal groups operating through a pervasive network and deploying developments in communication, transport and information technology.
An ECOWAS release said the Plan calls on members of the 15-nation Organisation to ratify and fully implement important international instruments of the sub-region and the UN, that strengthen laws against human trafficking and protects the victims, particularly the most vulnerable - women and children.
It also commits countries to adopt laws criminalising trafficking in human beings and to build necessary administrative structures for its eradication.
The experts urged Member States to collaborate with NGOs and representatives of civil society to protect the victims while public awareness campaigns aimed at potential victims should be developed and implemented through traditional channels of information and the media.
The Action Plan calls for new special police units to combat trafficking in persons.
Training of police, customs and immigration officials, prosecutors and judges is also an important element of the Plan.
The training will focus on preventive measures, the prosecution of traffickers, and the protection of victims, including protecting the victims from the traffickers.
It will take into account human rights and child/gender sensitive issues and encourage co-operation with non-governmental organisations and other elements of civil society.
Under the Plan, Member States will set up direct communication between their border control agencies and expand efforts at data collection on trafficking in persons.
They are also to engage in a study, to be shared with other ECOWAS States and the United Nations, to determine the means, methods as well as the magnitude, nature and economics that fuel the trade.
The experts, from ECOWAS Ministries of Justice, Internal Security and Social Affairs, recommended that new procedures be developed to help victims of trafficking return to their countries through the provision of appropriate travel documents when necessary, to facilitate such return.
Member States, through their Task Force or Agency on Trafficking in Persons, are to co-ordinate and monitor the implementation of the Plan at the national level and report on a bi-annual basis to the ECOWAS Secretariat.
Another meeting is to be organised in 2003 to evaluate the implementation of the Plan and recommend additional measures to be taken to address the problem.
The just-ended meeting was organised by ECOWAS in collaboration with the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention Centre for International Crime Prevention and the Government of Japan.
It is to be followed by a three-day meeting of experts on corruption and terrorism, a follow-up to the May 2001 meeting of Attorneys-General and Ministers of Justice, which recommended that the Secretariat prepare a comprehensive Community protocol to form the legal basis for a sub-regional fight against the problem.

24 october 2001 18:21:00

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