The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection is aiming at ensuring that every Ghanaian child gets a birth certificate as part of measures to combat child trafficking in the country.
The resort to birth certificates, according to the Chief Director of the sector ministry, Mr Kwasi Amo Himbson, is to prevent under-aged children from being trafficked to the Middle East countries by traffickers.
He said because many Ghanaian children do not have proper birth certificates, traffickers take advantage of the situation, lure them and obtain passports for them using forged birth certificates, after which they traffick such children under the pretense that the children are travelling on their own.
“We are asking for a waiver to ensure that everybody gets a birth certificate…because sometimes when you get a victim, the age becomes an issue,” he said.
Mr Himbson made the remarks when he read a speech on behalf of the sector minister at the launch of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) handbook to guide the effective management of human trafficking in Ghana, and said the ministry was working with key stakeholders and agencies to curb the menace of human trafficking in the country.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the United Nations migration agency, in collaboration with four ministries and the United States Embassy in Ghana Tuesday launched the Standard Operating Procedures handbook at a brief ceremony in Accra.
The 334-page SOP, with inputs by the four ministries – The Gender, Children and Social Protection Ministry; the Employment and Labour Relations Ministry; the Interior Ministry; and the Attorney General and Justice Ministry, will serve as a ready reference for all matters relating to migration.
Funded by the United States Embassy in Ghana, the SOP deals with varied Migration-related subjects such as Identification and Screening Protocols, Direct Assistance, Investigation procedures, Prosecution, Referral and Case Monitoring Framework, as well as a special chapter on a review of the Trafficking in Persons Law.
Mr Himbson said the ministry is working together with the Ministry of Local Government and the Births and Deaths Registry to find a way of ensuring that every Ghanaian child aged zero to 15 gets a birth certificate.
“Let me quickly add that together with the Ministry of Local Government and Birth and Deaths Registry, we are also looking at how we can register people from zero to 15. We are asking for a waiver to ensure that everybody gets a birth certificate,” he said.
He explained that “sometimes when you get a victim, the age becomes an issue. So if every Ghanaian has a proper birth certificate, then this wouldn’t be an issue for some people to get away with what they are doing….because if you look at the features of a young girl or a young boy, they tell you he is above 18 and he is travelling on his own to some of the Middle East countries and what can an Immigration officer do? He (the child) has the right of movement and has got a valid passport….so these are issues we need to tackle in combating child trafficking”.
Touching on the SOPs, Mr Himbson explained that they are "expected to create a deeper understanding of the issue of trafficking, victim identification, processes of protecting victims of trafficking and foster a closer collaboration among stakeholders".
He noted that the SOPs would also serve as a guideline for stakeholders to better implement the Human Trafficking Act, Act 694 of 2005 and its related legislative instruments.
"Ghana being a source, transit as well as a destination country for trafficking continues to have devastating effect on the lives of victims, who are subjected to forced labour and sexual exploitation," he said.
Mr Himbson said the signing of the Child Protection Compact (CPC) partnership between the government of Ghana and the government of the United States of America in 2005 was aimed at reducing child trafficking and increase the prosecution of traffickers.
He, however, expressed worry that despite the efforts the ministry and its allied agencies are making, there had been low prosecution of perpetrators of human trafficking.
He has therefore called for constant awareness creation and capacity building for stakeholders and the general public to enable them gain a better understanding of the complex issues, dangers of trafficking in persons and irregular migration.
The Chief of Mission for Ghana, Benin and Togo of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), Sylvia Lopez-Ekra, said the SOPs is a jointly developed multi-year plan between the governments of Ghana and the United States to help address human and child trafficking activities in the country.
She said the human trafficking menace is very complicated and needs a well-structured approach to deal with the situation, hence bringing on board the four key ministries.
She has therefore urged all the four ministries and other relevant agencies and departments to ensure that the SOPs are implemented to achieve the purpose for which it was developed.
A Political Officer at the United States Embassy in Ghana, Mr Rustum G. Nyquist, said a lot of work has been done on the SOPs and needed to be implemented with the desired seriousness.
He said the issues identified and discussed in the document were key to tackling the menace of human trafficking in the country, promising the continued support of the US government to the Ghanaian government.
He said the United States government would continue to be a partner in the fight against human and child trafficking in Ghana.
The Chief Director for the Ministry of Interior, Mrs Adelaide Anno-Kumi, who represented the Minister of Interior, said the ministry has intensified its advocacy and instituted preventive actions to drastically reduce the spate of human trafficking in the country.
She said the “Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) has been directed to intensify their border patrols whilst the police are enhancing their intelligence to get to the kingpins behind this phenomenon both internally and externally.”
She said emerging trends in human trafficking show that victims are not only trafficked for sex, drug trade, and worse forms of labour but are also trafficked for gruesome purposes where their vital organs are traded.