The government increased its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The 2005 Human Trafficking Act, amended in 2009, criminalized sex and labor trafficking. The Human Trafficking Act prescribed penalties of a minimum of five years imprisonment, which were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. However, the 2015 regulations for this Act provide specific guidance on sentencing depending on the circumstances; in general the term is not less than five years and not more than 25 years, but if a parent, guardian or other person with parental responsibilities facilitates or engages in trafficking, they are liable to a fine, a term of imprisonment of not less than five years and not more than 10 years, or both. By allowing for a fine in lieu of imprisonment, these prescribed punishments are not commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape.
The government reported initiating 113 total investigations into suspected human trafficking during calendar year 2017, compared to 138 investigations in 2016. Of the 113, the Ghana Police Service (GPS) Anti-Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU) reported conducting 91 investigations of potential trafficking crimes, compared with 118 investigations in 2016. Of these 74 were labor trafficking investigations, most of which were trafficking within Ghana, and 17 were sex trafficking investigations, all of which involved cross border trafficking. The Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) reported investigating 22 suspected trafficking cases compared with 20 cases in 2016; of these, 18 were labor trafficking cases and four were sex trafficking. The government reported investigating five recruitment agents for suspected human trafficking during the reporting period, compared to three in 2016. As in past years, the government did not prosecute or convict any recruitment agents for fraudulent offers of employment and/or excessive fees for migration or job placement in 2017. The government reported initiating 29 prosecutions against 56 alleged traffickers, compared to 11 prosecutions involving 11 defendants in 2016. The government prosecuted 46 defendants for alleged labor trafficking and 10 defendants for alleged sex trafficking. The government prosecutions included 26 by the GPS involving 52 defendants, compared to eight GPS prosecutions in 2016. The GIS initiated prosecutions against three suspected traffickers, one allegedly involved in child labor trafficking and two allegedly involved in sex trafficking, under the Immigration Act due to insufficient evidence to proceed with trafficking charges, compared to three defendants prosecuted by the GIS in the prior year. The GIS also continued prosecuting one alleged labor trafficker charged in 2016. The government reported a state attorney initiated prosecution of one alleged trafficker in high court and a state attorney continued a 2014-initiated prosecution of an Egyptian national and a Ghanaian conspirator for suspected illegal labor recruitment and human trafficking. The GPS also transferred three suspected traffickers to Nigerian authorities after the court case was delayed due to the judge’s illness and the lack of shelter. The government did not provide information on prosecutions initiated in prior years, which were stalled reportedly due to a lack of evidence, reluctance of victims to testify, or inability to locate the defendant. In 2017, the government convicted six traffickers, all of them prosecuted by the GPS under the anti-trafficking act; this compares to zero convictions under the anti-trafficking act and seven convictions for suspected trafficking offenses under other statutes that resulted in lesser penalties in 2016. The GIS convicted three individuals for immigration violations such as possessing false documents and deceiving public officials; these cases which were initially reported as suspected labor trafficking and sex trafficking crimes. Sentences imposed for the trafficking act convictions varied by the court hearing the case and ranged from six months imprisonment with a fine and victim restitution to five years imprisonment. A circuit court sentenced two traffickers convicted of forced labor to imprisonment of five years; a district court sentenced two traffickers convicted of forced labor to imprisonment of one year; and a circuit court sentenced two traffickers convicted of sex trafficking to six months imprisonment and payment of 10,000 cedis ($2,210) in restitution to the victims and a fine of 3,600 cedis ($800) or, if in default, a sentence of three years imprisonment. The district courts sentenced three individuals convicted of immigration act violations to fines of 600 to 1,200 cedis ($130 to $270). The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses; however, officials acknowledged, and NGOs and other organizations continued to report, general corruption within the police and judicial system as well as political interference with police investigations and prosecutions of suspected human trafficking as ongoing concerns.
Throughout the year, the GPS and GIS personnel reported a lack of adequate facilities, operating funds for logistics and investigative equipment, as well as appropriate shelter facilities for identified victims, which hampered or delayed investigative operations to remove potential victims from exploitative situations. State attorneys declined to prosecute several suspected trafficking cases due to inadequate evidence collection by police. While the Attorney General’s (AG) Department continued to report a shortage of prosecutors, police prosecutors, who lack formal legal training and whose actions in cases are limited by procedural rules not applicable to state attorneys, initiated all but one of the trafficking prosecutions. The government supported introductory anti-trafficking training for 313 GIS recruits and 54 cadets, as well as a refresher course for 107 officers at the GIS training school; and provided in-kind support for numerous donor-funded training programs for hundreds of investigators, prosecutors, judges, social service personnel, labor officers, and journalists during the reporting period.