Accra, Dec. 30, GNA – Human trafficking and slavery has become an international problem affecting millions of people and a number of countries across the globe, particularly in Africa.
In Ghana, the canker is one of the biggest challenges facing the country at both national and transnational levels. There have been numerous incidents of trafficking and abuse both internally and externally.
Ghanaian migrants, particularly women and young girls are increasingly recruited through licensed and unlicensed recruitment agencies for domestic work in various countries.
Every year, more than thousands migrants leave the shores of Ghana to the Gulf countries in search of domestic jobs. Some of them, mostly women and young girls normally fall prey to dubious recruiting agencies with little or no training on information on destination countries.
Along the streets of Accra, every single space is clouded with fraudulent advertisements promising juicy job opportunities abroad, but most of these innocent migrants end up in prostitution and slavery and all manner of inhumane treatments.
These advertisements are also common on social media channels, such as Facebook and WhatsApp, which calls for measures to address in order to protect Ghanaian migrant workers.
According to the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS), more than 2,000 women departed for work in the Middle East from September 2014 to January 2015.
Since then, more than 350 of them have returned, reporting inhumane working conditions and hours, physical, emotional and sexual exploitation and non-payment of salaries.
The 2014/2015 annual report by SEWA Foundation dubbed: “Rescuing Enslaved Ghanaians in The Gulf States,” revealed that there are hundreds of Ghanaians girls stranded in Kuwait. Most of them have hidden themselves in rooms in a town called Mahboula.
These girls are house helps who have been influenced, with promises of better jobs, to run away from their employers.
Most of these girls the report said complained that when they found themselves stranded on the streets and they called on some Ghanaians to help them, but instead of sending them to the police station or the government shelter, they kept them in their rooms, abused them and then dumped them again on the street.
Some agents and associations also pretend to be helping with rescuing these stranded house helps but instead are also actively involved in recruiting people from Ghana to Kuwait with promises of good jobs.
Such groups disassociate themselves from any attempt to actually rescue the victims and send them back to their countries.
The report found out that in most cases, citizens from other countries such as Philippians and India are paid higher wages than Ghanaians even for the same job and responsibilities because their countries of origin have policies that cover payment of wages and remunerations to their citizens.
To address these menace, seven key Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) have jointly agreed on measures to Protect Migrants at Home and Abroad.
The agreement was the outcome of a day’s workshop to commemorate this year’s International Migrants Day in Accra.
The seven MDAs are the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, Labour Department, Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, GIS, and Ghana Police Service.
The workshop was also attended by representatives from the European Union Delegation to Ghana, The United States Embassy, British High Commission and civil society organisations.
The discussions focused on issues of exploitation of migrant workers, particularly Ghanaian women and girls in the field of domestic work.
Ghana has taken numerous measures for better migration management including setting up a Migration Information Centre and a Migration Information Bureau, which act as one stop shops for information for potential migrants.
Others include signing of a bilateral agreement on labour issues with Jordan; creation of an Association of Employment Agencies; sensitisation of Ghanaian ambassadors and relevant stakeholders; development of a National Migration Policy; establishment of a unit at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra, to identify potential victims of trafficking prior to departure and providing return and reintegration assistance to returnees through IOM.
However, recognising the increasing challenges and the continued exploitation of migrants, the MDAs and IOM, reaffirmed their commitment to the promotion and protection of the rights of vulnerable Ghanaian migrants at the workshop.
This was done through the joint statement and recommendations on the development of standardised operating procedures, information sharing and data collection protocols, provision of pre-departure training and orientation, improved monitoring of recruitment agencies and provision of systematic reintegration assistance among others.
The statement on Protecting Migrant Workers at Home and Abroad acknowledged the challenges at every stage of migration (pre-departure, departure, in host countries, return and post return) and consequently the need for holistic approach.
The participants recommitted themselves to the implementation of the recommendations to ensure safe and humane migration and decent work for Ghanaian migrants.
The workshop was held under the auspices of IOM’s Ghana Integrated Migration Management Approach project, which aims to bolster Ghana’s migration management efforts, funded by the European Union.
Mr Sammy Longman Attakuma, the Chief Director of the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, who read the joint statement on behalf of other stakeholders, said they would develop information sharing protocols to well inform stakeholders to enable them contribute to the protection of migrants as well as ensure their rights and that of their families.
He said: “We also intend to negotiate additional bilateral agreements as needed with key receiving countries, to facilitate humane and orderly labour migration and decent work for all.
"Strengthen access to information for potential migrants in Ghana and contribute to their ability to make informed decisions by improving the capacity of institutional structures to serve as one-stop migrant workers' resource centres.
"Improve access and availability of training and pre-departure orientation opportunities, to increase knowledge amongst potential migrants on issues if job training, adjusting to a new culture, cultural sensitivities in the country of destination, their rights, among others," he added.
Mr Attakuma said they would enhance the law enforcement response including the closure, investigation and prosecution of illegal recruitment agencies and individuals, who facilitate the recruitment and trafficking for domestic work if Ghanaian migrants.
Ms Sylvia Lopez-Ekra, Chief of Mission, IOM blamed the plights of these women on fraudulent advertisements for jobs opportunities in various countries including the Middle East and expressed the need to intensify education on the menace.
She said it was not fair for IOM and the Foreign Ministry to organise to organise and bring back the migrants any time there was a problem, only for the perpetrators to be left unpunished.
December 14 every year, is recognised by the UN as International Migration Day to remember and identify the challenges of migrant workers as well as their contributions to national development in terms of remittances to the families.