WASHINGTON, D.C. – The government of President George Weah needs to increase its efforts to prevent trafficking in persons by establishing an operating budget for the anti-trafficking task force and the Trafficking in Persons Secretariat. President Weah has failed to include any activities in the 2018-2019 anti-trafficking national action plan. Additionally, other government offices need to stop using the TIP Secretariat’s dedicated vehicle for the office’s non-anti-trafficking purposes, leaving the Secretariat without transportation to investigate cases. The antitrafficking task force in Monrovia needs to stop meeting irregularly.
The Government of Liberia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period. It did not provide training or essential resources for law enforcement and prosecutors to investigate and prosecute trafficking cases; complicity and corruption inhibited anti-trafficking law enforcement action; and the government did not allocate an operating budget or resources to the anti-trafficking task force or its working-level body, the TIP Secretariat, which severely limited their activities. Therefore, Liberia remained on the Tier 2 Watch List for the second consecutive year.
Liberia is a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Trafficking within the country from rural to urban areas is more prevalent than transnational trafficking, and the majority of victims are children. Most trafficking victims originate from and are exploited within the country’s borders, where they are subjected to domestic servitude, forced begging, sex trafficking, or forced labor in street vending, gold and alluvial diamond mines, and on rubber plantations.
While Liberian law requires parents to register children within 14 days of birth, fewer than five percent of births are registered. A continued lack of birth registration and identity documents increase individuals’ vulnerability to trafficking.
Orphaned children are vulnerable to exploitation, including in street selling and child sex trafficking. In some poor families, parents encourage their daughters to be exploited in prostitution to supplement the family income.
Liberian nationals and—to a lesser extent—foreigners exploit children in sex trafficking in Monrovia. Officials have documented allegations of women in sex trafficking in Chinese-run hotels. Authorities identified two groups of suspected traffickers from Sierra Leone operating in Liberia during the investigation period.
A small number of Liberian men, women, and children are subjected to human trafficking in other West African countries, including Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mauritania, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria. Women from Tunisia and Morocco have been subjected to sex trafficking in Liberia, and Liberian women have been subjected to forced labor in Lebanon.
The government of Liberia reported investigations of government officials allegedly complicit in human trafficking offenses; however, it did not report efforts to prosecute or convict allegedly complicit officials. Police investigated a government official for involvement in the alleged illegal transport of five Liberian children to the United States. It was unclear whether the allegations were for human trafficking or smuggling. A Liberian law enforcement official reportedly intervened to hasten the end of the investigation and clear the accused.
In January 2018, the United Kingdom expelled two Liberian diplomats. Reports indicated one of several reasons was allegedly facilitating prostitution. NGOs and officials reported some government employees were directly complicit in child trafficking, including for domestic servitude and street hawking.
The LNP did not have dedicated antitrafficking funding or in-kind support and therefore lacked necessary 275 resources and equipment to adequately respond to and investigate LIBERIA allegations of trafficking, especially outside the capital. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training for officials but provided in-kind support for two officials to attend international training.