On Friday, March 20, International Justice Mission (IJM) embarked on its first joint rescue operation with Ghanaian authorities on Lake Volta. IJM worked side-by-side with Ghana's police and social services for two days to secure these historic rescues in IJM’s new partnership with the Ghanaian government.
“This rescue operation represents months of planning and collaboration between Ghana’s anti-trafficking unit, local police, EMT officials and government social workers. We can stop child trafficking in Ghana’s fishing industry if we work together to rescue the children and hold the traffickers to account under the law. When the laws are enforced, the violence stops,” said Kaign Christy, Field Office Director for IJM Ghana.
In 2013, IJM conducted an investigative evaluation of the scale of child slavery on Lake Volta, the world’s largest man-made reservoir measuring 600 miles wide at its widest point.
There they encountered hundreds of young boys working long days on the water, suffering at the hands of their masters and from the sheer backbreaking nature of the work, improperly cared for, and not attending school.
During the investigative evaluation, IJM investigators met Gideon; a teenager trafficked into slavery as an older child who suffered repeated beatings and abuse. The inaugural operation, “Operation Gideon,” was named for him.
The 10 children–as young as 5-years-old– received immediate medical attention, food and water after the operation and are currently being cared for in a safe location. They will eventually be transferred to long-term aftercare shelters or reunited with their families.
Lake Volta covers 3,283 square miles and is lined by numerous fishing villages. Ghana’s thriving fishing industry is primarily powered by as many as 50,000 children, a significant proportion of which have been sold and trafficked for slave labor.