It is now a criminal offence to engage in migrant smuggling and human trafficking in Ghana.
This follows President John Evans Atta Mills accenting to the bill and the gazetting of the new Immigration Amendment Act, Act 848, 2012, on June 29, 2012.
Under the new law, a person who engages in migrant smuggling commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of not less than six hundred and twenty five penalty units and not more than one thousand two hundred and fifty penalty units or to a term of imprisonment of not less than five years and not more than ten years or both.
The acting Director of the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS), Commissioner of Police (COP) Dr Peter Wiredu made this known in Accra Friday at the closing ceremony of a two-day stakeholder’s conference on Human Smuggling and Trafficking.
The conference, which was organised by the GIS in collaboration with the European Union, was on the theme; “Building Partnerships to Counter Human Smuggling in Ghana”. It formed part of a three-year action programme dubbed, “Countering Human Smuggling and other Irregular Migration under the Thematic programme on Migration and Asylum”.
The conference was aimed at building the capacity of officers of the Ghana Immigration Service and its partner agencies in the use of information gathering, expertise in intelligence-gathering and skills as important tools for effectively tackling criminal networks that operate behind organised irregular migration.
Article Three of the United Nations Protocol Against the Smuggling of Migrants define “migrant smuggling” as “Procurement , in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit, of the illegal entry of a person into a state Party of which the person is not a national of a permanent resident”.
Dr Wiredu indicated that: “It was necessary to criminalise migrant smuggling because it was a predicate offence for money laundering under Ghana's Anti-Money Laundering Act.
He explained that with the gazetting of the new law, the Ghana Immigration Act was now compliant with international standards on money laundering.
He indicated that the GIS through the support of its partner agencies like the European Union has trained a sizeable number of officers both locally and internationally on detecting, arresting and prosecuting of migrant smugglers.
Dr Wiredu said the service has also domesticated the United Nationas Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) training manual on anti human smuggling and this was being used by the service trainers to train officers locally.
He said that the service was in the process of training and upgrading the skills of prosecutors who would prosecute offenders of the crime at the law courts.
He said since smuggling and trafficking thrived mostly on fake documentation, the GIS had so far trained 10 document fraud detection experts in The Netherlands, who have been certified as international standards experts.
According to Dr Wiredu, the GIS Document Fraud Expertise Centre at Dzorwulu in Accra, which was the first of its kind to be established on the African continent through donor support, was actively and efficiently handling suspected fraudulent documents referred to it by various foreign missions in Ghana and other organisations.
Earlier at the opening ceremony, the Minister of the Interior, Mr William K. Aboah, called for effective strategies to eliminate human trafficking and migrant smuggling.
He said human trafficking and migrant smuggling, a twin global canker, have become issues of concerns which required a concerted effort to eradicate.
In a speech read on his behalf by his deputy minister, Mr Kobby Acheampong, Mr Aboah observed that the efforts of the United Nations and other global organisations to curb the growing incidence of migrant smuggling and human trafficking, had mostly focused on the arrest and deportation of individual migrants who were found in the receiving countries or whilst transiting to either planned or unplanned destination points.
Mr Aboah said the sophisticated nature of the twin canker, required the adoption of multifaceted partnership approaches if Ghana was to achieve any remarkable successes in the fight against human smuggling and other forms of irregular migration in Ghana.
He said at the beginning of the thematic programme implementation it became clear that there was the urgent need for an amendment to be made in the Immigration Act 2000 (Act 578) to specifically include human or migrant smuggling as a criminal offence.
The Head of EU Delegation in Ghana, Mr Claude Maerten, said trafficking in human beings was an extremely serious crime and a gross violation of human rights which could be classified as a modern form of slavery.
According to him, the fight against human trafficking was, therefore, a major priority of the EU.