The government increased victim protection efforts. The government reported identifying and referring 727 trafficking victims to services in 2021, a significant increase compared with identifying 391 victims in 2020. This included 657 victims of labor trafficking, 64 victims of sex trafficking, and six victims where the form of exploitation was unknown. A majority of identified victims were children (578), and a majority were Ghanaian (577). Of the 150 foreign national victims, most were Nigerian, followed by Burkinabe and Ivorian nationals. NGOs identified an additional 94 trafficking victims, including 87 labor trafficking victims and seven sex trafficking victims, compared with 108 victims in 2020.
The government had SOPs to identify trafficking victims and refer them to services. However, officials did not consistently apply the SOPs, and observers reported limited resources and a lack of coordination between the government and civil society at times hampered implementation. District Department of Social Welfare (DSW) personnel accompanied local law enforcement on anti-trafficking operations and screened for potential victims; however, these teams reported to local governments rather than a centralized government entity. As a result, observers reported decentralization, lack of funding, and poor management impeded the DSW’s effectiveness and sometimes resulted in inadequate and inconsistent treatment of victims. Officials referred all 727 victims to government shelter services or NGOs for care. The government operated one shelter for adult female trafficking victims, which provided care for 150 trafficking victims in 2021. The government, with an international organization’s support, maintained a dedicated shelter for child trafficking victims, which provided care for 78 children. A government-run shelter for victims of child abuse could also accommodate child trafficking victims. There were no shelters for adult male victims, and most men received short-term housing and some medical and psychological assistance, followed by reintegration support. Government services for women and children included shelter, medical care, needs assessments, psycho-social care, education and skills training, interpretation for foreign national victims, assistance obtaining identity documents, registration with the national health service, and assistance during legal proceedings. Through its Human Trafficking Fund (HTF), the government expended 650,000 Ghanaian cedis ($107,440) for victim services in 2021, compared with 590,000 cedis ($97,520) for victim services and shelter renovations in 2020. Relying on private facilities operated by NGOs and faith-based organizations, the government referred most child trafficking victims to one of 11 privately-operated shelters that provided or coordinated provision of services.
However, overall shelter capacity for child trafficking victims remained insufficient. Observers reported the government reintegrated child victims without conducting extensive home assessments. Foreign victims had the same access to care as Ghanaian victims. Foreign victims could seek temporary residency during legal proceedings and, with the Interior Minister’s approval, permanent residency if deemed to be in the victim’s best interest; officials did not report how many, if any, foreign victims it granted temporary or permanent residency. The government, often in collaboration with NGOs and foreign donors, trained government and civil society protection workers on topics ranging from trafficking indicators and trends to case management and trauma-informed care.
Victim services were not dependent on cooperation with law enforcement proceedings. The government, in cooperation with NGOs, assisted victims who chose to participate in law enforcement proceedings against their traffickers by providing legal services, funding for lodging, transportation, and psycho-social support. Victims could provide video or written testimony, and some courts had child-friendly spaces that allowed child victims to testify from a separate room via video. Officials and NGOs reported that prolonged adjournments slowed prosecutions and impeded victims’ participation, and officials did not always protect victims’ confidentiality. Ghanaian law allowed trafficking victims to obtain restitution, and in one case, the court awarded two victims 1,000 cedis ($165) each. Victims could file civil suits against their traffickers, but none reportedly did so.