Ghana is a country of origin, transit, and destination for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. The trafficking of Ghanaians, particularly children, within the country is more prevalent than the transnational trafficking of foreign migrants. Ghanaian boys and girls are subjected to conditions of forced labor within the country in fishing, domestic service, street hawking, begging, portering, artisanal gold mining, and agriculture. Ghanaian girls, and to a lesser extent boys, are subjected to prostitution within Ghana. Child prostitution, and possibly child sex tourism, are prevalent in the Volta region and are growing in the oil-producing Western regions. Ghanaian women and children are recruited and transported to Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, The Gambia, South Africa, Israel, Syria, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States for forced labor and forced prostitution. Women and girls voluntarily migrating from China, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, and Benin are subjected to commercial sexual exploitation after arriving in Ghana. Citizens from other West African countries are subjected to forced labor in Ghana in agriculture or domestic service. During the reporting period, there was an emergence of fraudulent recruitment agencies that advertised locally for jobs abroad, generally in the domestic service and retail sectors; as a result, there was an increase in the number of Ghanaian women migrating to the Middle East to work in these sectors, some of whom were subsequently forced into prostitution upon their arrival.
The Government of Ghana 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, the government initiated 75 investigations, conducted five prosecutions, and secured three convictions of trafficking offenders. The government also drafted a new five-year national action plan and continued to conduct information and education campaigns throughout the country. However, the government failed to provide any specialized anti-trafficking training to law enforcement officials and did not provide sufficient funding to properly maintain government-operated shelters.
Recommendations for Ghana: Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and punish trafficking offenders; ensure the police’s Anti-Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU) has adequate resources to conduct law enforcement efforts; train law enforcement personnel to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations—such as females in prostitution and children working in agriculture—and refer them to protective services; adopt the legislative instrument to implement effectively the 2005 Human Trafficking Act; increase government funding for protective services to victims, including to the Human Trafficking Fund; ensure the maintenance of government-operated shelters; improve data collection and reporting on victims identified and assisted; reinstate quarterly meetings of the Human Trafficking Management Board and provide adequate resources to the board to implement the National Plan of Action against Trafficking; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
The government maintained anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. The 2005 Human Trafficking Act—amended in 2009 to align its definition of human trafficking with that of the 2000 UN TIP Protocol—prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes penalties of five to 20 years’ imprisonment for all trafficking crimes. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. During the reporting period, the government initiated 75 trafficking investigations and secured three convictions; this demonstrates a significant decrease from the previous reporting period, when the government initiated 91 investigations and convicted 29 traffickers. All three offenders were convicted for sex trafficking offenses; two received five-year prison sentences and one received a seven-year sentence. At the close of the reporting period, two prosecutions and 42 investigations remained pending. In October 2012, the Government of Ghana collaborated with the Government of Burkina Faso in an INTERPOL-led operation, which resulted in the rescue of 387 child trafficking victims from various West African nations subjected to forced labor in gold mines and cotton fields in Burkina Faso; the Ghanaian Police sent 16 officers to participate in the operation and assisted in 30 arrests. During November and December 2012, the government began an operation against sex trafficking in close cooperation with the Government of Nigeria’s National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and Other Related Matters (NAPTIP); as a result of this operation, authorities rescued 82 Nigerian and 41 Ghanaian victims and apprehended 10 Nigerian and six Ghanaian suspected trafficking offenders. As a result of these investigative efforts, five prosecutions were completed during the reporting period; one additional case is pending. The government completed the pilot phase of the Ghana Child Labor Monitoring System (GCLMS)—a database concerning forced child labor and trafficking at the community level—in 60 cocoa-producing communities across six districts; however, no arrests or prosecutions resulted from this effort. Government officials cited the need for the enactment of a legislative instrument to implement effectively the 2005 Human Trafficking Act; at the end of the reporting period this instrument was awaiting Ministerial action before moving to Parliament for approval. Officials also stated police and prosecutors lacked the training and resources to prosecute trafficking cases fully; however, neither the government nor any outside entities conducted specialized anti-trafficking training for government officials during the reporting period. The government did not report any investigations or prosecutions of public officials for alleged complicity in trafficking-related offenses during the reporting period.
The government decreased efforts to protect victims during the year. The AHTU reported identifying 262 victims, but only referring 33 on an ad hoc basis to government and NGO-run facilities offering protective care. The government did not employ formal procedures to identify victims among vulnerable groups, such as women in prostitution or children at work sites. The Ghanaian Police Service maintained a 24-hour hotline for reporting crime, including trafficking; the hotline received an unknown number of trafficking-related calls during the reporting period. The Department of Social Welfare (DSW) paid for medical costs associated with caring for identified victims, while international organizations sponsored psychiatric rehabilitation and care. In partnership with an international organization, the government operated one short-term open shelter specifically for trafficking victims; this shelter was equipped to take both child and adult victims, but in practice, adults were often placed in hotels and hostels when space was not available. The DSW also maintained a multipurpose shelter for abused children, which cared for an unknown number of trafficking victims during the reporting period. If reintegration with family members was not possible, children may have been placed in foster families with approval from the courts or a government-run orphanage; it is unknown whether this occurred in 2012. Both shelters only provided short-term care, generally limiting victims’ stays to three months, although extensions were granted on a case-by-case basis. It is unknown how much funding the government dedicated to victim protection and assistance, but NGOs and government officials reported the funding was inadequate. Government officials reported that the Human Trafficking Fund, which was established by the 2005 Human Trafficking Act to finance protection efforts, lacked funds; as a result, shelters operated in sub-par conditions without the resources to make basic repairs and government officials had to use their own personal funds to assist victims. The government encouraged victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking offenders, and provided them with protective escorts and legal counsel during trial proceedings. The government continued to offer foreign victims temporary residency during the investigation and prosecution of their cases and, with the interior minister’s approval, permanent residency if deemed to be in the victim’s best interest; no victims sought temporary or permanent residency during the year. There were no reports that victims were penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked.
The government sustained its anti-trafficking prevention efforts during the reporting period. The Human Trafficking Management Board (HTMB)—an entity chaired by the Minister for Women and Children’s Affairs and comprised of government agencies and NGOs—only met twice during the reporting period; officials cited a lack of funding as a reason for not conducting mandated quarterly meetings. The HTMB drafted a new five-year national action plan, which addresses anti-trafficking activities for 2013 through 2018. With support from international organizations and NGOs, the government conducted anti-trafficking information and education campaigns throughout the country, including sensitization programs in the Volta Region and cocoa-producing communities. State-owned radio and television programs also aired anti-trafficking programming. The aforementioned joint operation with Nigeria’s NAPTIP was driven in part by the government’s attempts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. The government took no discernible measures to decrease the demand for forced labor, despite acknowledging the growing number of unlicensed employment agencies that are increasingly facilitating the trafficking of Ghanaian women to the Middle East. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to Ghanaian troops prior to their deployment abroad on peacekeeping missions, though such training was provided to Ghanaian troops by foreign donors. Ghana is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.