WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwired - February 13, 2017) - On Tuesday, January 24, 2017, 24 boys were rescued from fishing boats on Ghana's Lake Volta. International Justice Mission (IJM), the world's largest international anti-slavery organization, worked side-by-side with the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU) and Marine Police of the Ghana Police Service to rescue the two dozen boys -- the youngest only seven years-old -- and arrest 16 suspects.
"We are extremely grateful to have been able to assist in bringing freedom to these young boys who were suffering unconscionable abuse on the lake," said Kaign Christy, IJM's Field Office Director for Ghana. "But there are still thousands of boys trapped on the lake, and we are committed to walking with the Ghanaian government and local law enforcement to address this horrendous crime, until all of these precious children are free."
Nearly 50,000 children work in Ghana's fishing industry, with tens of thousands working on Lake Volta alone, according to the Ghana Statistical Service. A 2013 IJM study revealed that nearly 60% of the children encountered on the Lake were believed to be trafficked and that more than half of the children were 10 years of age or less. Forced to work long hours -- in some cases under violent abuse -- and with very little sleep and sustenance, the conditions are horrific and unrelenting.
IJM Ghana staff quickly reassured the boys that they were now safe and free. When this new reality sunk in, many began to clap and sing. The youngest boy felt safe enough to fall asleep. The children were given immediate aftercare services by IJM's team and Ghana's Department of Social Welfare.
"It was a new experience for them to live like a child and eat a full meal and sleep a full night and play football and do the things normal kids do. In these small moments, there were little beginnings of transformation," said IJM Ghana Director of Aftercare Anita Budu.
IJM commends the Ghana Police Service and Ghana's Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection for their enormous support in this successful rescue operation.
IJM works in 17 communities across the developing world to rescue victims, restore survivors, restrain perpetrators and transform broken public justice systems. In Ghana, IJM is partnering with local authorities to build law enforcement capacity and fight the trafficking of children into forced labor on Lake Volta. Learn more at www.ijm.org.