This policy brief provides an insight into the content of the new Anti-Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling amendment Act as an informative tool to guide policy directives, decision making, and intervention on all issues related to human trafficking by both state and non-state actors. It summarises the content of the Act with highlights of the key laws to inform advocacy, policy intervention, and programme management on anti-human trafficking in person (ATIP) activities by all stakeholders. In addition, it provides an analysis of the new Act’s implications on prosecution, protection, prevention, and partnerships, as well as recommendations for policy and practice and a concluding remark. It is hoped that this brief will be valuable to ATIP advocates and policy makers across ministries, departments, and agencies within the government of Sierra Leone as well as parliamentarians, law enforcement personnel, and civil society activists. In summary, the key takeaway points from the Act are highlighted below.
- More protection is guaranteed for children who are adopted, in foster care, or the situation of sexual and labour exploitation.
- Where there is sufficient evidence of a crime of exploitation and trafficking, perpetrators can be prosecuted without the consent of the victims.
- Women’s rights are more protected in situation of sexual exploitation and their past sexual behaviour is irrelevant in the face of human trafficking.
- Migrant smuggling is a crime and prohibited in all its forms.
- There are more stringent punitive measures for both convicted traffickers and migrant smugglers.
- Organisations, groups, or family members who aid and abet offences within the Act face rigorous penalties. This directly targets illegal labour migration recruitment agencies.
- The Act provides clear guidelines and processes for comprehensive compensation to victims of crimes/offences covered in the Act.
- Witness protection services are guaranteed in the Act.
This new amendment Act is long overdue as the previous Anti-trafficking Act of 2005 is considered obsolete and disconnected from current realities and intervention needs; and failed to contextualise human trafficking in the Sierra Leonean sense. For instance, the 2005 Act did not cover issues of “Men Pikin,” which is the most commonly abused form of societal structures in the exploitation and trafficking of children in the country. Other gaps in the previous Act include compensation of victims, deficiencies in the Interministerial committees, smuggling of migrant and laws against victims smuggling, restitutions of both physical and psychological well-being of victims of trafficking (VoTs), witness protection, stringent penalties, as well as obscure cultural practices that affected the implementation of the law. Furthermore, in a 2022 baseline study conducted by the African Programming and Research Initiative to End Slavery (APRIES) at the University of Georgia’s Centre for Human Trafficking Research and Outreach (CenHTRO) on child trafficking and child labour in the Eastern Region of Sierra Leone, it was observed that prosecution is one of the most challenging areas towards ATIP efforts in the country. This is due to inconsistent enforcement of the law between local communities, lack of collaboration and trust between government authorities and community leaders as well as the culture of silence4. These existing gaps have affected coordination and interventions in the referral pathway for victims of human trafficking in identification, protection, rehabilitation, and reintegration; as well as their participation in the prosecution of perpetrators. Therefore, this new Act is considered a breath of fresh air in the fight to combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP) in the country.
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