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Type of document: News
Topic: Normative and institutional framework
Geographic descriptors: Ghana, United States of America
Language: English
Date of publication: 14 September 2004
Long Abstract: One hundred and thirty-two children who had been trafficked for forced labour in fishing communities at Yeji in the Atebubu District of the Brong-Ahafo Region were recently reunited with their parents during reunification ceremonies in the towns of Mafi Dove and Sogakope in the Volta Region, respectively. The children, who had been sold by their impoverished parents to local fishermen for up to 1.5 million Cedis (US$170), stayed at the IOM transit centre in the town of Yeji where they were given medical examinations and treatment as well as counselling for one month before completing the final lap of their journey home. Fifty of the children were also admitted to a transit centre at Sogakope for three weeks in order to provide them with additional assistance before their return home. The centre belongs to the African Centre for Human Development (ACHD), a local NGO working with IOM to rescue trafficked children. This brings to 430 the number of children who have been freed and reunited with their parents under the IOM programme funded by the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) of the US Department of State. All the children have now returned to school or have joined vocational training programmes. The 132 children recently rescued are part of a larger group of children soon to be released by their former employers. In return, the fishermen receive training and micro-credits to help them improve their fishing techniques or engage in other income-generating activities. IOM's Project Manager, Joseph Rispoli says that many fishermen have now engaged in secondary activities, such as cattle rearing and provision selling. Extensive monitoring has shown that the fishermen are now flourishing without having to use child labour. Prior to the release of the children, IOM identified the needs of their parents and have provided vocational training and community revolving loan funds to start or expand small businesses ranging from selling foodstuffs and textiles, through farming and trading, to the setting up of small restaurants known as "Chop Bars". IOM has so far registered a total of 1,002 school-aged children who have been trafficked from the Volta and Central Regions of Ghana to fishing communities in Yeji for bonded labour. Most of the children are between 6 and 14 years of age. While most of the boys are forced to work in the fishing industry, some girls are often made to act as cooks, servers, and porters. They begin at dawn and work until late afternoon casting and drawing nets. They are poorly fed and never paid. Sometimes the nets get stuck at the bottom of the lake and the children have to dive to release them. Some have drowned. Local traditional leaders helped IOM win the cooperation of the fishermen, locally known as "slave masters". "We're always keen to involve as many traditional elders and opinion leaders in our work as possible, as they often act as role models and greatly influence the fishermen, parents, and children," explains Rispoli. PRM has recently allocated additional funding to the project for further rescue missions and the establishment of a rehabilitation centre at Atebubu. Construction of the centre is due to begin in October and last until the end of the year. Once completed, an initial group of 100 trafficked children will be transferred from Yeji and spend three months undergoing intensive rehabilitation before being returned to their families. The centre will include educational, vocational, medical, recreational, and counselling facilities, and will be the first of its kind to cater specifically to the needs of trafficked children in Ghana. For further information, contact Joseph Rispoli at IOM Accra, Tel: 233.244 975250, jrispoli@iom.int
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