The government maintained its overall protection efforts but identified fewer victims, and there remained gaps in the provision of shelter services. The government reported identifying 348 potential victims of trafficking (252 children) compared to 579 potential victims identified during the previous year. Of the 348, the GPS identified 285 potential victims compared to 339 potential victims in 2017; 242 were potential victims of labor trafficking, all of whom were Ghanaian and nearly all of whom (231) were children, mostly (190) boys. The GIS identified 55 potential trafficking victims compared with 215 in 2017; 39 were potential victims of labor trafficking; almost half were adult Ghanaian women; 14 were males, and 14 were from Niger and Benin. In their sex trafficking cases, GPS and GIS identified 49 female potential victims, 22 of whom were children and nearly all (46) were from Nigeria, two were Thai, and one was Ghanaian. The EOCO identified one potential victim of labor trafficking.
In some regions, the government implemented SOPs for screening, identification, referral, and protection of trafficking victims developed in collaboration with an international organization. The government reported referring all 348 potential victims of trafficking for care and described the assistance provided, including psycho-social support. The government increased its support for protection services by recruiting and orienting staff and expending 378,000 cedis ($78,340) of the 500,000 cedis ($103,630) deposited in the Human Trafficking Fund during the previous reporting period, for items necessary to open two specialized shelters, one for child trafficking victims and one for adult trafficking victims, neither of which opened during the reporting year. Although pending throughout the year, the government did not complete its review of or approve a memorandum of understanding between the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection (MOGCSP) and a donor organization outlining the government’s and donor’s support for services at the children’s shelter. Relying primarily on private facilities operated by NGOs and faith-based organizations, the government referred child trafficking victims (252) to either one government-operated shelter for children or to one of 10 privately operated shelters that provided or coordinated the provision of services, including needs assessment, medical care, nutrition, psycho-social support, counseling, education or vocational training, recreation, and reintegration services. In contrast to the preceding year, the government did not report providing funding to NGOs to support shelter and care for child victims of trafficking. Some private shelters expanded services to provide care for young adult and child sex trafficking victims; however, the overall shelter capacity for child trafficking victims remained insufficient for the number of victims referred for care. Due to the absence of a shelter for adult victims of trafficking, the government provided counseling, care, and protection for adult trafficking victims primarily in guesthouses or hotels. Ghanaian law enforcement collaborated with the Nigerian foreign ministry and anti-trafficking authorities to obtain identity and travel documents and facilitated repatriation of Nigerian citizens. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration (MFARI), MOGCSP, GIS, and GPS cooperated in facilitating the repatriation of six Ghanaian trafficking victims identified in two Gulf states. The government relied on donor support for repatriation expenses of these six Ghanaians and the return of one Filipina and two Thai trafficking victims from Ghana to their countries of origin. The MOGCSP hotline, administered in English and three local languages, received 3,599 calls; personnel referred calls related to 11 potential trafficking victims to the GPS for investigation.
NGOs reported continued cooperation with national, regional, and local government officials in response to NGO reports of potential child trafficking victims and during law enforcement-led operations that were coordinated with the navy, marine police, and local social welfare workers, who were responsible for screening victims, securing care orders through the district courts, and arranging placement for child victims. Although most adult victims declined to assist in prosecutions, in part due to limited victim support, the government reported 20 victims who voluntarily participated in prosecutions were given support, transport funds, and safe lodging during court proceedings. Ghanaian law permits victims of trafficking to pursue monetary damages by filing a civil suit, but the government did not report any such suits during the reporting period or whether the traffickers ordered to pay restitution to two victims in 2017 complied with the order. Foreign victims may seek 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 officials fined, detained, or penalized trafficking victims for unlawful acts that traffickers compelled them to commit.