Dakar- Senegal (PANA) -- Ghanaian Attorney-General and Justice Minister, Nana Addo Akufo-Addo has appealed to ECOWAS Member States to urgently ratify and implement international agreements against human trafficking, which has assumed alarming proportions with the involvement of organised criminal groups.
The agreements include the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, the Convention against Trans-national Organised Crime and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children.
Akufo-Addo told experts from the Ministries of Justice, Internal Security and Social Affairs of Member States, at Tuesday's opening in Accra, of a two-day meeting on trafficking in persons, that the sub-region also needed to establish multi- sectoral national task forces that will develop policy and initiate action on the problem.
Governments should also offer assistance to innocent victims, taking cognisance of the peculiar needs of women, children and ethnic minorities.
In the address, read by his deputy, Gloria Akuffo, the Minister said the problem of non-implementation of relevant international conventions has been compounded by either outdated or non-existent legislation at the national levels targeted on the issue.
Describing Ghana's legislation as "woefully" outdated in addressing the problems of trafficking in women, particularly the newer forms of cross-border and global trafficking, he said the country was replete with allegations of adolescent girls being forced into prostitution in countries in Europe, Africa and some parts of Asia after being lured with false offers of lucrative jobs.
Burkhard Dammann of the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (UNODCCP), told the meeting that 130 countries have signed the UN Convention against Transnational organised Crime, adopted by the General Assembly in November 2000.
Some 91 countries, 11 of them ECOWAS Member States, have also signed the protocols on trafficking in persons.
Burkhard, who heads the global programme against trafficking in persons at the Vienna-based UNODCCP and the Centre for International Crime Prevention, said that sophisticated and organised crime groups, operating through a pervasive network, were taking advantage of improved transport, communication and developments in Information Technology.
"Traffickers are well-informed on immigration laws in the destination countries and arrange for the appropriate documentation along with transport of their victims," he told the meeting, which is discussing a political declaration and an Action Plan against trafficking in persons in the ECOWAS sub-region.
Citing estimates, which put the number of women and children trafficked annually world-wide at between 700,000 and two million, the UNODCCP official said two types are dominant in the sub-region - trafficking in children mainly for domestic work and farm labour within the sub-region, as well as trafficking in women and children for sexual exploitation outside.
Delegates to the meeting, which is jointly organised by the UNODCCP, ECOWAS and the government of Japan, will also discuss Ghana's proposal for the creation of a Criminal Intelligence Bureau to help check cross-border crimes.
Country reports on the status of trafficking of persons will be presented by each Member State.
The meeting will also discuss corruption and terrorism at a three-day meeting 25-27 October, also in Accra.
This is follow-up to the May 2001 meeting of Attorneys-General in Accra, which recommended that the ECOWAS Executive Secretariat prepare a comprehensive Community protocol for the sub-region.
The recommendations of the experts will be submitted to the Heads of State and Government of the 15-nation Community during their next Summit in December.