Strengthening Institutions to Prevent Family Separation in Edo State

Every child can get adequate parental care if families stay together. However, the promise of a better life abroad has forced many Nigerian families to separate. Yearly, hundreds of children and young persons are trafficked from Edo State to other parts of Africa, Europe, and Asia for domestic and sex work. The United Nations notes that Edo State accounts for 94 percent of women trafficked for sex work outside Nigeria. This situation has led many international and social development organizations in the state to intensify efforts to combat the problem. Despite these interventions, human trafficking continues to thrive in the state.

In response to this challenge, the “Combating Human Trafficking in Nigeria” project funded by the European Union, implemented by Expertise France, and co-implemented by SOS Children’s Villages and Idia Renaissance was initiated to improve rehabilitation services and prevention of trafficking in Edo State, so that many more families can stay together. Through this project, SOS Children’s Villages in Nigeria supports stakeholders working against human trafficking to be more effective in their interventions.

While there are many factors affecting the effectiveness of anti-human trafficking interventions, it is widely accepted that standards of practice play a huge role in this issue. Standards of practice ensure that stakeholders have an agreed understanding of how cases should be handled so that victims are not further traumatized or exposed to harm through their interventions. Usually, these standards of practice include a referral mechanism, agreed best practices, case coordination platform, and strong linkages amongst various institutions.

Edo State boasts of a large stakeholder platform for coordinating issues on human trafficking. However, the apparent lack of agreed best practices organized referral mechanisms, and strong linkages are pointers to why human trafficking continues to thrive in the state in spite of efforts. To bridge this gap, SOS Children’s Villages in Nigeria hosted the Edo State Anti-Human Trafficking Joint Stakeholders Forum for a one-day dialogue in collaboration with Action Aid Nigeria and the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP). The meeting tagged “Dialogue meeting of Joint Stakeholders on Migration in Edo” was held on Tuesday, the 22nd of February 2022 at Homeville Hotel in Benin City, Edo State as part of stakeholder advocacy and sensitization for the “Combating Human Trafficking in Nigeria” project.

A total of 53 participants drawn from high-profile organizations were in attendance. These include representatives of The United Nations Migration Agency (IOM), ActionAid Nigeria, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Edo State Taskforce Against Human Trafficking (ETAHT), the Nigerian Army, The Nigerian Immigration Service, Department of Secret Service (DSS), the Nigerian Police Force, The Salvation Army, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Social Development and Gender Issues, NGO networks, Local religious groups, Civil Society Organizations, Returnee associations and other right holders within Edo State.

Top on the agenda was the need to improve how stakeholders work through an effective referral mechanism, development of standards of practice, and institutionalization of practices to prevent trafficking and rehabilitate victims.
Speaking on the need for an organized way of referring and tracking cases amongst stakeholders Mr. Obi, Onyebuchi, the PRO NAPTIP, Benin Zonal Command, drew the stakeholders’ attention to the fact that “No organization or agency has the capacity to effectively manage a human trafficking case from start to finish. We need to work together now more than ever. The only way we can do this is by using a well-organized referral system. The referral system can help to prevent situations where we keep empowering the same set of individuals with little or no results to show for it. NAPTIP has a referral system at the national level.
We can adopt that kind of system in Edo State”.

In response to the call, participants set out to develop a referral directory for Edo State. SOS Children’s Villages in Nigeria supported the process by collating information about services offered by stakeholders and their contact details into a referral directory. This referral directory will serve as a tool for linking families and victims to services within the anti-human trafficking sector in Edo State.

At the end of the meeting, stakeholders reached a consensus that it was high time to develop standards of practice for use by all Anti-Human trafficking stakeholders in Edo State. SOS Children’s Villages in Nigeria assured stakeholders of its support for the process to standardize practices through the “Combating Human Trafficking” in Nigeria Project noting that better institutional practices ultimately promote parental care and prevent family separation.

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