PAOPA LEGAL TRAFFICKING

Every day around the world hundreds of thousands of boys and girls are trafficked from their countries of origin to exotic locations around the world in the guise of one common theme or purpose or promise: the hope of a dream job in a high income country.

A combination of poverty, lack of available job opportunities and the desire to travel and see the world is used to lure young and impressionable girls to far off locations. Unable to afford travelling and other costs associated with reaching the advertised destination, a lot of young and eager girls agree to repay the people facilitation their travelling (who use employment agencies as a front business for their nefarious intentions) upon receiving the hoped for salaries, which are always higher than what college graduates in their countries of origin make on a monthly or annual basis.

Sadly for most of these girls, upon arrival at their destinations they soon realise that their reality is far from expectation or what was promised. Forced to repay their debts by any means necessary, most of them end up on the streets working day and night as prostitutes, escorts and other such titles. With their passports and other documents in the possession of their minders, these women become virtual prisoners and indentured servants who cannot leave their ‘jobs’ until they repay their debts, which are further inflated by other costs incurred during their stay where they are trafficked to.

Seeing that this form of travel for work scheme is heavily dominated by organised crime syndicates, and recognising that certain countries have a very high demand for servants, maids and nannies, governments of developing nations where such women originate from have decided to get with the programme by cutting off these middlemen ‘employment companies’ by dealing directly with the government of the host country to ensure that these young ladies end up doing as specified in their visas.

As laudable as the idea is, a lot of civil society activists that spoke to this medium about the hundreds of young Sierra Leonean girls presently housed five or more to a room at the Hotel 5/10 in Low Cost/Kissy waiting to leave for Saudi Arabia today to work as maids and servants said despite their best intentions the President Bio led government cannot guarantee that these girls would not end up in homes where they’d be expected to, apart from doing their normal jobs, also provide sexual favours for the men, neighbours and friends of their host families. They told this medium that what Minister of Labour Alpha Timbo has accomplished under this programme amounts to nothing less than ‘legal trafficking’.

An investigation mounted by this medium paid an information seeking visit to the fabulous Hotel 5/10 in Kissy east of Freetown yesterday. To our consternation we discovered many young and beautiful Sierra Leonean girls packed five or more to a room hoping to leave for Saudi Arabia today. What was shocking to us about how these girls were housed is that by having as much as up to eight girls per room, their situation is reminiscent of how these so-called ‘employment agencies’ would lodge their victims before they are flown, driven or shipped to their countries of destination.

To justify the untoward intention of the Ministry of Labour and the New Direction government with regards to this legal trafficking of our sisters, aunties, mothers, nieces and friends, this medium was reliably informed that Minister Timbo’s wife was awarded the contract to provide food for the young women during their stay at Hotel 5/10. This obvious case of conflict of interest and gross neglect of putting such services up for competitive bidding by individual and corporate service providers is a harbinger of the intention of this travel for work scheme: these girls are being used as currency to benefit a few and select group of people either working for or associated with the PAOPA government. Of all the many catering services spread across the country, does Minister Timbo want to tell us that only his wife’s business is qualified to provide such a service? When was this opportunity advertised to attract great but low costing service providers?

The writing is on the wall: this programme is yet another opportunity for members of the New Direction government and their associates to make money regardless of who it affects. Suffice to say, Minister Timbo cannot assure the nation that what the Ministry of Labour is doing is any different from what these sex trafficking enterprises are known for doing. The minister cannot guarantee that our girls will not end up like the many young African and other non Arab women who end up in Saudi Arabia to work as maids who ended up being harassed to also provide sexual services for their host families.

Minister Timbo, is this the best the Ministry of Labour could do for our sisters? Isn’t there any other alternative or way for this legal trafficking of our future women leaders to be prevented? As the Ministry of Labour part of your mandate is to create job opportunities at home, with the alternative of seeking others abroad for our citizens. What job opportunities have your ministry created for the many young female graduates who are presently running helter-skelter in search of job opportunities right here at home? There must be a better way than what is currently going on.

To be continued in subsequent editions.

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