A group of 17 Togolese girls, aged between 16 and 21, including a single mother and her one-year-old baby, have been returned home from Gabon with IOM's help.
Of the 17, 11 girls were found on Gabon's Koniquet Island in August 2015 by the Gabonese Immigration Service. Following their rescue, they were taken to a Gabonese government reception centre for children in Libreville, where they received medical and psychological care. Six other girls, already identified as Togolese victims of trafficking, had already spent two years in the center.
Their stories tell of pain and sorrow. Some left Togo without even informing their parents, who did not know whether they were alive or dead. Some were tricked into leaving by strangers promising a better life. Others were trafficked by neighbors or relatives.
During their journey from Togo to Gabon by motorbike, car and pirogue canoe, most of the girls experienced verbal, physical and sexual abuse.
On 12th November, IOM, in close cooperation with UNICEF, the Togolese and Gabonese authorities, returned the girls to Togo, where they are now staying in a reception center for vulnerable children in Lomé, in the custody of the Togolese Government, while their families are traced and assessed.
“It is paramount to ensure that reintegration into the family of origin is in the best interest of these minors and will not bring further risks to their safety and personal development. All the phases of the project are being coordinated with relevant stakeholders,” said IOM regional migrant assistance expert Michele Bombassei.
“In 2016 IOM will start to implement two projects targeting child trafficking between Togo, Benin and Gabon, including the finalization of a trilateral cooperation agreement on countering trafficking. The identification of this group shows how badly needed this initiative is,” he added.