Since its inception, NAATIP has never registered successful prosecution against perpetrators of trafficking as a transactional crime until this year, when the Brikama Magistrates’ Court convicted three individuals for the crimes of trafficking.
“NAATIP was a very skeletal office. Today, the office of the President deployed 12 security officers as attaches to the office. This has strengthened our capacity to conduct thorough investigations into crimes of trafficking in persons,” said Ms Jawara as her office marked the International Day Against Trafficking in Persons last Friday.
The office has been making series of prosecutions but could not succeed in achieving convictions. This has resulted in the country’s rating in the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report.
Gambia remains on a Tier 2 watch list. This means it has not met the minimum standards in combating human trafficking in the country. It is also considered a transit, source and destination country for trafficking in persons.
“We have now achieved three convictions; we hope that the next year’s report would make a difference. We will implement more activities to improve our rating. Last year, we have implemented more activities than ever before,” she said.
Convictions present challenges to the office because victims do not come forward to give testimonies against perpetrators. “They fear testifying because of stigma and the Gambian culture of silence. This becomes an unfortunate scenario,” she explained.
NAATIP also receives “limited subvention” from government, but the office relies on the support of partner agencies to pursue its 3Ps approach – prevention, partnership and prosecution.
In The Gambia the Ministry of Gender is responsible for and mandated counsel and rehabilitates victims of trafficking. NAATIP is charged with locating perpetrators, inviting victims to give testimonial statements against them and begin protections against them.
“Just in November and December 2020, NAATIP was able to repatriate two victims from Oman and Lebanon, funded purely by The Gambia government. We went to receive these returnees from Dakar during the peak season of Covid-19 pandemic and brought them home.
“The limited subventions do not stop them from carrying out public sensitisation, investigating cases of trafficking in persons or reintegrating returnees as survivors of trafficking into society. These are all possible due to our partner agencies like IOM, who support our activities.
“We also had cases in court involving a Nigerian, of sexual exploitation in nature. Once they were granted bail. They absconded. This has affected our ability to continue prosecution of the case when we can’t find the suspect. After they left for Nigeria, we can only work with NAATIP Nigeria and see how they can be located in Nigeria and possibly extradited or prosecuted in another jurisdiction,” she explained.