LIBERIA: Safe Use of Internet And Social Media Could Help Mitigate Risks Human Trafficking… -Says US Deputy Chief of Mission
The Deputy Chief of Mission at the United States Embassy near Monrovia, Amb. Joel F. Maybury says with the global expansion in the use of technology intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift of our everyday life to online platforms, the crime of human trafficking has also expanded into cyber space.
He said the internet and digital platforms offer traffickers numerous tools to recruit, exploit, and control victims; organize their transport and accommodation; advertise victims and reach out to potential clients; communicate among perpetrators; and hide criminal proceeds noting that all are done with greater speed, cost-effectiveness, and anonymity.
Amb. Maybury said, technology allows traffickers to operate more quickly internationally across multiple jurisdictions while evading detection with greater ease.
“Traffickers use social media to identify, groom, and recruit victims, including children; e-mails and messaging services are used to coerce victims; and online platforms allow traffickers to widely advertise services provided by victims, including child pornography. Crisis can also intensify this problem. Criminals profit from the chaos, desperation, and separation of people, particularly women and children from support systems and family members” he said.
The US Deputy Chief of Mission added that online resources can become a trap, especially when it comes to phony travel arrangements and fake job offers targeting vulnerable groups.
He however maintained that in the use of technology, also lies great opportunities noting that “Technological solutions to date include mobile apps that help identify victims of sex trafficking; satellite imagery that tracks down fishing vessels carrying victims of forced Labour; and web scraping tools that aggregate child abuse images to help law enforcement track down children in need of help.”
Amb. Maybury indicated that the future success in educating human trafficking will depend on how law enforcement, criminal justice systems, and other authorities can leverage technology in their responses, including by aiding investigations to shed light on how trafficking networks operate and providing support services to survivors.
He noted that prevention and awareness-raising activities on the safe use of the internet and social media could help mitigate the risk of people falling victim of Trafficking online.
Cooperation with the private sector is important to harness innovation and expertise for the development of sustainable technology-based solutions to support prevention and combating of human trafficking.
The United States Embassy Deputy of Mission, Amb. Joel F. Maybury was speaking when he served as Keynote Speaker on observance of the “World Day Against Trafficking in Persons (WDATIP) held in Gbarnga City, Bong County on Saturday, July 30, 2022.
The theme for this year’s celebration “Use and Abuse of Technology” highlighting technology’s ability to both enable and impede human trafficking.
Speaking further, Amb. Maybury recognized and applauded Liberia’s upgrade to Tier 2 from Tier 2 Watch List in this year’s Trafficking in Persons Report, which was publicly released by U. S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
“This is good news not only because it recognizes the important work Liberia has done in this area, but this improvement in its ranking also prevents what would be an automatic downgrading to Tier 3, the lowest Tier, which could have resulted in the end of all non-humanitarian and non-trade U. S. assistance to Liberia. The Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report” is the U. S. Government’s principal diplomatic and diagnostic tool to guide relations with foreign governments on human trafficking. It is also the world’s most comprehensive resource of governmental anti-trafficking efforts and reflects the U. S. government’s commitment to global leadership on this key human rights, law enforcement, and national security issue” Ambassador Maybury noted.
He said that the Government of Liberia demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared with the previous reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore, Liberia was upgraded to Tier 2. During this past reporting period, the Liberian Government passed and enacted a new trafficking law with provisions that removed the elements of force, fraud, or coercion for child sex trafficking crimes.
“It also increased investigations, prosecutions, and convictions and all allocated more funding to NGOs to conduct awareness raising campaigns. The Liberia National Police established a new anti-trafficking unit, and fort the first time, the Ministry of Labour hired lawyers dedicated to prosecuting trafficking cases. But I want to reiterate that the battle against trafficking in persons, or modern-day slavery, must not continue in Liberia, in the United States, and in every country.”
Amb. Maybury hailed the 2022 TIP Hero Judge Cornelius Flomo Wennah for the recognition noting “The other great news that I want to celebrate with you is the recognition of Judge Cornelius Flomo Wennah as one of this year’s TIP Report Heroes, one six in the world and the only one in Africa. Judge Wennah’s efforts to hold traffickers accountable both through his current work as a judge and his previous work as head of the Felonious Crime Division and as a prosecutor at the Ministry of Justice were recognized by Secretary of State Antony Blinken during event releasing the 2022 TIP Report.”
He said that in a post-conflict country facing resource challenges and weak rule of law, Judge Wennah has demonstrated tireless devotion to improve Liberia anti-TIP track record.
Delivering a special remark during the celebration, the Chairman of the National Anti-Human Trafficking Taskforce of Liberia, Labour Minister, Cllr. Charles H. Gibson said, the use of internet has account of over 90% of human trafficking cases and warned Liberians to be careful of who to communicate with on social media. He said that of the seven cases so far prosecuted by government, list of witnesses have said they were connected through phone calls and calls on parents to advise their children on the proper use of social media.
Minister Gibson used the occasion to commend Judge Cornelius F. Wennah for his recognition as TIP Heroes for 2022 as well as the Ministry of Justice, International partners, local civil society organizations and the TIP secretariate of the Ministry of Labour for the contributions in ensuring that Liberia is upgraded to Tier 2 on the TIP ranking of the U.S. Department of State 2022 TIP Report.
He extended special thanks to the United States Embassy in Monrovia for guarding the Taskforce to pass this mark by during the right things.
The Chairman of the National Anti-Human Trafficking Taskforce of Liberia said, the Country is committed to ensuring that Liberia moves to Tier 1 by next year promising to never go back on this record.
He praised government for the political will in supporting the fight against human trafficking noting that it has at no time held back support to the working of the taskforce.
However, Minister Gibson said everyone has the right to travel in search of employment, but to be subjected to slavery amounts to terrorism adding that the situation of the Liberian girls in Oman is becoming embarrassing.
In a brief statement, Judge Cornelius Flomo Wennah said been recognized as TIP Heroes means that Liberia at Tier 2, can rise to higher height to even graduate from level of Tier 1. According to him, with the efforts he has seen over the years working with other in Liberia this goal can be achieved by collective.
During the celebration of the day, members of the Taskforce including the Ministries of Justice, Gender, Internal Affairs, Foreign Affairs as well as international partners, IDOL, WinRock International, Samaritans Purse, DCI, IOM, World Hope amongst others issued statements of reaffirmation of commitments to the fight against human trafficking in Liberia. The celebration was organized by the Ministry of Labour in collaboration with the partners.