Ghana: African children are being sold into a life of forced labor
This Sunday marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the Slave Trade Act, an event being commemorated in Ghana at Elmina castle, the country's most notorious slave trading fort, and in a series of events around the UK.
But across Ghana, and most stubbornly in fishing communities on Lake Volta, Ghanaian children are still being sold for as little as 200,000 cedis (£12) into a life of forced labour, malnutrition, physical abuse and no schooling.
Raymond Tchia was seven when his future master woke him from his bed and took him away to a life of fishing and diving into the deep water to untangle nets. Raymond lived in a one-room mud hut with 20 other boys and says they were fed only one meal a day. Now 17, Raymond was released only two months ago. He has never been to school before now.
"I did not enjoy living with that man. The man uses force. When I was young, I was very scared, so if I was to dive into the water and was afraid, he would beat me," Raymond says.
The International Organisation for Migration has rescued 612 trafficked children from Lake Volta since 2002, and it estimates that there are hundreds, and possibly thousands, more trafficked children still fishing on the lake.
Through a programme of community education and persuasion, IOM convinces fishermen to release trafficked children, and then reunites them with their families.
To secure their cooperation, IOM offers the fishermen help in improving their fishing business without relying on child labour, or help in setting up alternative businesses. The children's parents are offered micro-credit loans to help them keep the children at home, and the returned children are guaranteed school or vocational training.
Both parents and fishermen are also warned that Ghana passed a law against child trafficking in December 2005. Just last month, the country's authorities secured their first conviction under the new law.
Most of the children, mainly boys between the ages of 6 and 17, come from communities near Ghana's central and eastern coast, and are sent to live either with relatives who have migrated north onto the lake in search of better fishing, or with unrelated fishermen looking for cheap, obedient labour.
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