The ECOWAS Commissioner of Human Development and Gender, Dr Adrienne Diop on Monday observed that trafficking in person exacted a high toll on a victim, physically, emotionally and psychologically.
In addition, she said, it leads to the loss of opportunity to develop the life-skills of victims which was essential to a sustainable livelihood.
Opening a two-day ECOWAS Meeting on the Adoption of the Regional Policy on the Rehabilitation of Victims of Trafficking in Persons of West Africa in Accra, she added that the consequences to the affected society were equally grave and included the growth and diversification of organized crimes.
Most trafficking groups she noted were likely to get involved in other types of organized crimes with proceeds from trafficking in persons.
The activities, she said, included trafficking in drugs, weapons, smuggling and other fraudulent behaviours.
Experts at the two day meeting would discuss a policy on the protection and assistance to victims of trafficking in the region.
Dr Diop said trafficking also posed a major threat to society including the demographic destabilization of communities as young people moved out of rural to urban areas.
This, she said, contributed to insecurity and instability as the next generation of criminals were produced via the process of trafficking that robbed them of any real opportunities in life.
She mentioned among many other issues the Adoption in 2001 by heads of states of ECOWAS of the Political Declaration and plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in 2011 and the collaboration between West and Central Africa in adopting the Joint Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons in West and Central Africa in 2006 as some of the measures ECOWAS was taking to combat the scourge.
The importance of care and assistance to victims, the commissioner said could not be overemphasized in the combat of trafficking and that to neglect the victims, would be a negation of the very overarching goals of human security and development which informed the of ECOWAS in the area of counter trafficking.
Dr Yasmin Ali Haque, UNICEF Representative in Ghana said using a regional approach and a common strategy when addressing child trafficking issues in the region had proven beneficial since 2002.
She said regional initiatives still needed to be better harmonized and coordinated but indicated that the links between those initiatives remained to be clarified and improved.
“A lack of conceptual clarity remains and there is a need to better understand the various types of child mobility within the region to improve the quality and effectives of child trafficking programmes in West Africa.
The Head of the Technical Cooperation Department of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Joseph Rispoli said protection was also at the core of IOM's counter approach and thus many programmes and tools had been developed through out the world.
For instance he mentioned using the right-based and victim-centred approaches and called for protection policies needed to be formulated in the framework of existing regional agreement/plans of action, namely the 2001 ECOWAS Declaration and Plan of action as well as the 2006 ECCAS/ECOWAS joint Plan of Action and Multilateral Cooperation Agreement.
Mr Babacar Ndiaye, Representative, United Nation Office of Drug and Crime said he was hopeful that the outcome of productive deliberation would be solid to help achieve goals.