Since the launch of the new boat patrol unit in Ghana at the end of 2022, four rescue operations on Lake Volta by the Ghana Police Service have brought eight children to safety.
The Ghana Marine Police have collaborated with IJM to rescue the eight children, aged between 9 to 17 years-old, seven of whom were determined to have been trafficked into forced labor in the fishing industry.
The introduction of this pilot boat patrol unit is a significant change to how police are equipped to tackle the crime of human trafficking on the lake. The environment around Lake Volta includes a multitude of inaccessible banks and islands that are cut off from land, inaccessible by car, and generally out of reach of law enforcement. While police stations exist in towns around the lake, up until now, boat operations to rescue children were mostly only in response to pre-identified cases of trafficking.
Thousands of young children are separated from their families and are trafficked from regions across Ghana into forced fishing labor on Lake Volta. Fishing is classified as “dangerous work” and unsuitable for children due to the hazards associated with the work. Many children cannot swim and are at constant risk of drowning as they are pressured to dive deep into the lake to untangle nets. In addition, the children face physical and emotional abuse, deprivation of education, and malnourishment.
A proactive police presence on the lake leads to immediate results
The boat patrol program marks the beginning of a proactive investigations of active cases of human trafficking in the fishing industry on the lake. In October 2022, the first rescue was conducted, bringing a 14-year-old boy to safety. The fisherman who abused him was arrested and given bail.
In January 2023, two boys, ages 12 and 17 were rescued from abuse in the fishing industry.
Additionally in January 2023, two boys were rescued, aged 12 and 15. Joojo*, 12, said during intake assessment that “working on the lake is difficult and I am made to do the work of adults.” One suspect has been arrested and granted bail.
In February 2023, three boys were rescued. This rescue involved two interceptions: first the police identified two boys, aged 12 and 9 as potential victims and arrested the suspect. While returning from that operation, the team intercepted another 14-year-old victim. Two suspects connected to these cases have been arrested and granted bail.
With these arrests and the increasing presence police on the lake, the places for traffickers to hide are shrinking.
Following each of these operations, the victims received aftercare support and were placed in temporary shelter.
Images are from previous rescue operations.