Overseas Recruitment Must Be Regulated

By Allieu Sahid Tunkara

Fake recruitment schemes have landed over 60 Sierra Leonean women in the Middle-eastern country of Lebanon in a dire situation.

They are stuck in a foreign land. They want to return home after months of exploitation by so-called masters and employers.

Nostalgia has gripped them evidenced by their wailings for immediate aid and return.

They are eager to return home but the means of returning are not there.

Global migration watchdog, United Nations International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Sierra Leone has been contacted for assistance.

IOM through its official say, it is constrained as Sierra Leone lacks an embassy in Lebanon.

However, IOM is in constant touch with the vulnerable women to ensure that they are brought back to Sierra Leone.

The global migration watchdog says the unfortunate women complained of abuses of various kinds.

The women are victims of trafficking enveloped in overseas recruitment where hopes and dreams to make great fortunes remain high. But, their hopes have turned into despairs and dreams into nightmares.

The penchant of traffickers to make gains out of their victims makes the trade to linger for generations to come.

They assure their victims of lucrative salaries and wages upon their arrival in those countries. The fine promises definitely lure victims to embark on dangerous sea routes through a scheme called ‘Temple Run.’

Failed states in North Africa especially Libya have become the main transit point for Middle-eastern and European nations.

A trafficker can put on the regalia of a fine gentleman capable of providing good jobs abroad with the promise of payment of a US$2,000 dollars a month.

The victim admires the sum and goes into the plan without further checks for safeguards to sojourn in a foreign land.

Once in a distant country away from home, the trafficked victim is paid just US$200 and the US$1,800 goes to the pocket of a trafficker.

After year or two working in a slave-like condition, a victim is fed up with the situation and demands to get back their freedom.

Freedom in a distant country where Sierra Leone has no embassy is hard to come by. It is a picture of the perilous situation Sierra Leoneans have been trapped in Lebanon.

Grim images of risks and sufferings the victims endure during their long voyages for greener pastures constitute great and horrific episodes.

Head of Trafficking In Persons (TIP) prosecution syndicate at the law office, Adrian Fisher told participants in a workshop that trafficking of victims is facilitated by traffickers for gains.

Fisher made it clear that overseas recruitment is the main cause of trafficking as traffickers are always inclined to making money out of their victims.

By his statement, government does not outlaw recruitment abroad, but frowns at those who want to make money from trafficked workers.

Fisher cited the Ant-Human Trafficking Act of 2005 which, he said, was a law that frowned at trafficking in persons.

He said the law was being redrafted to include severe punishment for traffickers.

As the struggle continues in Lebanon, Another batch of stranded Sierra Leoneans waits to be repatriated from Senegal to Sierra Leone.

It is not clear when they would return home since nobody knew the means they employed to travel to a foreign land.

In June this year, 87 Sierra Leoneans were apprehended in Senegal apparently on a trafficking Spree.

72 out of the 87 arrested, authorities said, were women while 15 are men. A source shows that not all 87 arrested are Sierra Leoneans.

Sometime in March this year, another batch of 23 Sierra Leoneans were also arrested in Senegal for the same crime.

Evidence indicates that the two arrests were not the first to be effected by Senegalese authorities.

Records show that   17 Sierra Leoneans were repatriated last year from Senegal to Sierra Leone.

The Sierra Leone Embassy in Senegal foot the bill of the repatriation as the sum of US$5,000 was said to have been spent to send the Sierra Leoneans back home.

Sierra Leone Ambassador to Senegal was shocked to learn about the flurry of arrests.

Documents seen by Nightwatch indicate that the network of traffickers operate in three levels in Senegal.

The document explains that the first level is Sierra Leone where victims are recruited, and the second level entails bringing the victims to Senegal through Guinea and the third level is to airlift them from Senegal to the middle-east countries.

Senegal is not the only African country where Sierra Leoneans have been arrested on human trafficking sprees.

Quite recently, over 40 Sierra Leoneans were sent home from Kuwait. The stories they told were horrific.

In a similar situation, 16 Sierra Leoneans were repatriated to Sierra Leone early this year from the United States.

United States authorities confirmed that the repatriated Sierra Leoneans are illegal migrants as they entered the country without proper documentation.

It was a great financial burden on the Sierra Leone Government that has been providing accommodation and other services for the repatriated victims.

The most embarrassing factor for the government was that two of the 16 repatriated victims were not Sierra Leoneans, but they carried Sierra Leonean passports.

Crime was also another factor that could not be ruled out in the repatriation drive since nobody knew the lifestyle to which the returnees have been exposed.

Deputy Director, Serious Crime Unit in the Office of National Security, Abdul Will said the country was deeply worried at the time the 16 Sierra Leoneans were repatriated to the country.

The fear arose when it was discovered that two men were not Sierra Leoneans.

He said it was an embarrassing situation for the government at the time.

Another batch of over 1,000 Sierra Leoneans were about to be sent home by the United States Government when Covid-19 struck.

Sierra Leonean authorities are now scratching their heads over the provision of the facilities to cater for 1,000 men should the American Government sends them home.

As Sierra Leoneans continue to strand in different parts of the world, Sierra Leones is yet to legislate on overseas recruitment despite public calls for such law.

The argument goes that it would be difficult for the government to curtail human trafficking if effort is not made to scrutinise foreign employment in the form of a law.

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