The United States government’s Department of State has disclosed that Liberia has been downgraded to Tier 2 Watch List for among other reasons, the Government of Liberia (GoL’s) failure to fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in human.

In the State Department’s 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP) on Liberia, released by the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, the U.S. government says the GoL does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.

The Trafficking in Persons Report, or the TIP Report, is an annual report issued by the U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. It ranks governments based on their perceived efforts to acknowledge and combat human trafficking.

The report divides nations into tiers based on their compliance with standards outlined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000.

For the Tier Liberia has been downgraded to, the Tier 2 Watchlist, are for countries whose governments do not fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.

The U.S. State department named some efforts being exerted by the Liberian government as opening a new shelter for child trafficking victims, initiating an investigation into a high-profile labor trafficking case in cooperation with foreign governments, and allocating funding to NGOs to conduct awareness raising campaigns.

However, the U.S. State Department’s 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report on Liberia indicates that during the year in review, the Liberian government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the GoL’s anti-trafficking capacity.

“The government identified fewer victims, initiated fewer investigations, prosecuted fewer defendants, and did not convict any traffickers,” the report noted, adding, “Law enforcement officials continued to lack adequate resources and understanding of trafficking to effectively investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes.”

The report maintains that shelter services for victims remained insufficient, and that the Government of Liberia did not support NGOs providing care to victims, emphasizing, “Therefore, Liberia was downgraded to Tier 2 Watch List.”

Howbeit, the Americans are recommending that the Government of Liberia prioritizes increasing its efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking cases, including internal trafficking cases and officials accused of complicity.

The U.S. government has also recommended that the GoL among others, trains its law enforcement and judicial officials on identifying, investigating, and prosecuting trafficking cases under the 2005 anti-trafficking law; amends the 2005 anti-trafficking law to remove the requirement of force, fraud, or coercion in child sex trafficking cases; amends the 2005 anti-trafficking law to prescribe penalties for adult trafficking that are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with the penalties for other grave crimes; and expand victim services—particularly for victims outside the capital, males, and victims requiring long-term care.

The United States also wants the GoL to increase financial or in-kind support to NGOs that support trafficking victims; train law enforcement, labor inspectors, immigration officials, and social workers on standard victim identification procedures and the national referral mechanism; allocate financial and in-kind resources, as feasible, to the anti-trafficking task force; increase labor inspections in the informal sector and mining regions to improve identification of trafficking cases, including child forced labor.

The rest of the U.S. government’s recommendations to their Liberian counterpart are for the GoL to increase efforts to raise public awareness of human trafficking, including internal trafficking; screen foreign workers, including Cuban medical workers and Chinese nationals working for Chinese-owned enterprises, for forced labor indicators and refer identified forced labor victims to appropriate services.

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