“Since our return from Lebanon where were used as slaves and sexually molested, our Government has failed to cater to our wellbeing, we have been abandoned in an isolated area where we were placed since our return from that Country. We have been imprisoned here by our own government,” few of the girls in a chat with our staff said.
The girls many of whom who appeared ‘homesick’ said since their arrival from Lebanon the Liberian government has kept them in a secret location preventing their families and the public from coming in contact with them.
The girls said they are controlled and restricted to a fenced building that is heavily guarded by state security.
But the government at one of its press conferences said the action is to avoid endangering the prosecution of the accused who took the girls to Lebanon. However the lack of food and basic needs is forcing the girls to come out of the so called security protection.
“What we are going through here in our home country is similar to what we went through in Lebanon. Keeping us from our families in an isolated area is like being in prison. This government is not helping us at all,” one of the girls speaking to our reporter in tears said.
According to information, the Ministries of Gender and Child Protection is currently in contact with these girls, as other media institutions are complaining of being denied access to the girls.
One of the girls speaking further complained that the Coordinator for Gender assigned in Kakata has refused to inform them the status of their cases, a situation they said making them to feel that government is insensitive to their plight.
These 14 girls returned to Liberia with hope that the alleged human traffickers Abbas Debs and brother Bushir would have been brought to justice.
“I cannot get over it! Those people treated us worse than slaves for three years and we cannot get justice? It is just as Bashir told us in Lebanon. He said ‘your government is in our pocket so nothing will happen to my brother. If we even kill you we will add the 3,500 to your body and send it home; your people can do nothing’, said David as she clenched her face with crying in desperation. In 2005 Liberia signed into law an Act to Ban Trafficking in Person. The Act specifically prohibits all forms of transnational and eternal trafficking.
In its recent report the United States department of State reported abuse of the rights of women and girls. According to the report the Liberian government does not comply with the minimum standards for eliminating human trafficking. “The government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts to address human trafficking compared to the previous year; therefore Liberia is place on Tier 2 Watch List for a third consecutive year.”
But President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf discredits the entire report saying the report was based on information from the local media which in her mind is inefficient. As if to add insult to injury the government’s abandonment has placed the girls in an awkward position. They are being stigmatized by people who have seen their images in newspaper and television broadcast.
“The police allowed us to go out to get money from our people through mobile money because they know that if we do not eat we will die. But whenever we go out to get the money and buy food people can be pointing at us. Some of them even go as far as calling us names like prostitutes, and sex slaves. It looks like nobody cares for us,” Panma’s voice trembled as she looked on the ground cupping her chain in her palm, a gesture that speaks volumes of self-pity.
Jessica Sampah, a high school graduate who inspires to be civil engineer said she wish all will be over soon so that she can go back to school. “We are not prostitutes. I was going to be able to save money for one year and go back to school. How come these people are able to destroy our lives and go free? Is our government really in the Lebanese people pockets? I just want this whole thing to be over so that I can go back to school”, she said.
The Government of Liberia has indicted Abbas and another accomplice on multiple charges but the trial is yet to resume. According to the Government the girls are being kept in the secret location to enable them be used as witnesses in the trial of the accused. But the girls are unsure about getting justice and even uncertain that they would be repaid lost wages from their stay in Lebanon. With no faith in their government who the girls believe is in the pocket of the Lebanese community, the girls appear resigned to a life of living hell. “I think the Government of Liberia wants to compromise the case and just let us suffer, that is how I think”, Grace lamented.
The plight of these girls has trigged huge criticism from the public on government’s failure to seeking the wellbeing of its citizens.