LIBERIA: Several Lebanese and a Liberian Are To Face Prosecution For Human Trafficking

Recent hullabaloo about the trading of 62 Liberian girls as sex slaves in Lebanon has taken a dramatic direction with several Lebanese and a Liberian are expected this week  face prosecution in Monrovia on multiple charges including Human Trafficking.

Mr. Abbas Debs, the head of the Lebanese human traffickers , a Liberian only identified as Tamba have been linked to this heinous crime, even though all of the 62 girls have been brought back to Liberia, the Liberian Government has vowed to prosecute those linked to the crime here in Liberia.

Recently, prior to their arrival from that Country, some of the girls via a mobile phone told a local newspaper in an exclusive interview:

“We were told by a Lebanese businessman called Abbas Debs, owner of the Speedo Printing Press in Monrovia that we were going to Lebanon to do business because his brother had a big business that needed workers. But when we arrived, different people who had paid US$ 3,500 for each girl, came for us at the airport to work as house girls and be used anyhow in their homes,” Muffittee Panma, one of the alleged victims lamented.

As Liberia faces a difficult period in the fight against Ebola, another difficult issue of human-trafficking and slave labor involving 62 Liberian girls in Lebanon, has surfaced.

Twenty-five-year old Muffittee Panma who has been in Lebanon for a year narrated via mobile phone from Lebanon, that they are five girls who were contacted by a man in Liberia called Tamba Dixon Harris, who reportedly process their travel documents.

However, Muffittee said they are about 62 Liberian girls working and abused in Lebanon.

She noted that she is among many Liberian girls who have gone to seek greener pasture but ended up being used as sex slaves around the world; while their documents were reportedly seized to prevent them from returning home.

Even though human trafficking is a violation all over the world, according to the UN Universal Human Rights Law, many people still see it as a lucrative business.

According to the UN Report on trafficking, the most common form of human trafficking (79%) is sexual exploitation. On the average, the victims of sexual exploitation are predominantly women and girls.

Surprisingly, in 30% of the countries which provided information on the gender of traffickers, women make up the largest proportion of traffickers. In some parts of the world, women's trafficking is a norm.

Back to Muffittee's narrative, she further alleged that when they arrived in Lebanon, they were told that they would work as house girls but when they refused and said it was not the arrangement, they were allegedly beaten and threatened.

“We were beaten and were told that if we did not work as house girls they will put us in jail and lie that we stole from them. Or they will kill us and tell our parents in Liberia that we were trying to run away and got involved in a car accident and died. So we had no option but started working without pay after telling us we were going to be paid US$250.00 monthly,” she narrated.

Muffittee also said the people they work for would tell them that they were bought US$3,500 each from one Bachear Lakis and that they could do anything they wanted to do with them.

“Bachear Lakis himself would take us to the mountain one at the time and put us at gun point and have sex with us. He has done it to me two times. He told me since I do not want the job as a house girl he would find a better job for me, but when I refused, he would put a gun to my head and threaten to kill me if I told anybody,” the alleged victim indicated.

However, Tamba Dixon Harris has denied the claim of recruiting the girls, but admitted being friendly with the Lebanese man called Bachear Lakis, who is accused of taking the girls to Lebanon.

“I do not have any influence to give anybody Visa to go Lebanon. But Bachear is my friend and he and I are not doing any business together,” Tamba clarified.

He continued: “The only part I did was I personally filled in the form at the Foreign Ministry for the girls' passports because it was not all of them who could read or write. But Bachear was the one who processed their documents and scanned their passports and sent them to Lebanon and they processed the Visas.”

He further narrated that a girl called Annie, who reportedly worked in Lebanon, came to Liberia to give birth and the girls asked her to connect them to work in Lebanon.

Accordingly, when they told him (Tamba) he promised to ask his friend Bachear if he could connect them. He said: “When I took them to Bachear Lakis he then took them to his Uncle Abbas Debs who owns the printing press in Buzzy Quarter and he (Abbas) told the girls he wanted girls who have had children because they were going to work as house maids and take care of children and not merry-make or go to school.”

When asked as to whether he knew the girls' passports were being confiscated and that they were not paid he replied: “According to Lebanon Labor Law, if anybody is taken to work, his or her passport is seized until that person pays back the entire travel expensive used to get him or her to Lebanon. The agreement is, if you work, they will cut money from your salary until they can get the money they spend for your travel expensive.”

Tamba also said when he spoke with his friend Bachear in Lebanon regarding the girls' passports, he (Bachear) told him that he was working on the girls getting their travel documents, but he needed two weeks to clear immigration.

Notwithstanding, UN report states that the second most common form of human trafficking is forced labor (18%); although this may be a misrepresentation because forced labor is less frequently detected and reported than trafficking for sexual exploitation.

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