The Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL), Patricia Narsu Ndanema has welcomed the launch of the Victims of Human Trafficking Trust Fund by the Ministry of Social Welfare and its partners.

Serving as Chairperson for the official launch on Friday 23rd February 2024 at the Freetown City Council Auditorium, she expressed gratitude to the Ministry of Social Welfare and its partners and noted the Commission’s role as a member of the Anti-trafficking in Persons Task Force.

Madam Ndanema stated that the establishment and launch of the trust fund as stipulated in Section 11 (1) of the Act, represents a significant milestone in the country’s unwavering commitment to combat human trafficking and underscores the collective resolve of the government and its partners to provide comprehensive support and assistance to victims of trafficking, specifically highlighting sections 11(3b) Anti Human Trafficking and Smuggling Act 2022, which stipulates the importance of providing comprehensive support to victims including access to medical, psychological and other social services.

So today, am happy that the numerous consultations held between the Ministry of Social Welfare and other actors have yielded positive results as manifested by our presence here today, to witness the launch of the Victims of the Human Trafficking Trust Fund, as provided for in Section 11(1) of Act No. 12, being the Anti-Human Trafficking and Smuggling Act 2022,” she said.

She informed the gathering that in May 2021 Sierra Leone went through its 3rd Cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a process where the human rights records of countries are assessed. Outcomes of the assessment she added revealed that 13 of the 274 recommendations proffered for the improvement on human rights on certain thematics in Sierra Leone fall under the thematic ‘Prohibition of all forms of slavery/Human Trafficking’.

The gathering was further informed that Sierra Leone was encouraged to redouble its efforts to combat trafficking in persons especially women and children, strengthen mechanisms to combat trafficking and also adopt a comprehensive policy to strengthen efforts to combat human trafficking. Government of Sierra Leone did not note those 13 recommendations but accepted all as a manifestation of its commitment to combat trafficking in persons.

The HRCSL Chairperson said the Commission has observed and noted several steps taken by government in combating trafficking including the enactment of the Anti-Human Trafficking and Smuggling Act 2022, the setting up of a National Task Force on Human Trafficking and the development of the Anti-Human Trafficking Framework Strategy (2022-2026) and many other interventions.

According to her, the strides taken by government through the Ministry of Social Welfare, manifests it’s commitment in meeting one of its human rights state obligations of ‘Protecting Human Rights’ through effective legislation being a channel through which affected person can claim their rights.
She added that the launch also shows government’s commitment in protecting its citizens in accordance with regional and international human rights instruments and specifically as stipulated in Section 19(1) of the Constitution of Sierra Leone 1991 which denounces trafficking and slavery in its entirety.

Highlighting complaints received from the public over the past months by the Human Rights Commission on issues related to trafficking and migration, Madam Ndanema informed the gathering that the Commission with its broad mandate to protect and promote the human rights of all persons in Sierra Leone, established a special Directorate of Migration and Human Trafficking in 2022 with the objective to address cases of vulnerable persons brought to its attention in collaboration with other partners such as Trans-National Organized Crime Unit (TOCU) and International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

The Chairperson touched on the significant strides made by the Commission through the Directorate, using the 4Ps Framework of prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnership with significant success stories recorded including the Commission’s recent intervention in Masingita, Northern Sierra Leone and facilitating the repatriation of a Nigerian citizen to his home country.

“As we gather here for this important launch, it is imperative to reflect upon the commendable progress made by the Government of Sierra Leone through the Ministry of Social Welfare, being the line ministry and its partners, the role our very proactive and result oriented first lady noting her role in the promotion of the rights of women and girls, other partners notably my Commission, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Trans-National Organized Crime Unit (TOCU), local Non-Government Organizations, members of the diplomatic corps, all international partners who have supported this process financially and technically she concluded.”