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in Senegal

Symposium on the responsibility of judges in protecting victims of trafficking and smuggled migrants

In recent years, human trafficking and smuggling of migrants have become growing concerns in West and Central Africa. Indeed, the region is a point of departure, transit and destination for victims of trafficking and for migrants smuggled towards Europe, Americas, the Middle East and Asia. This migration is facilitated in West Africa by the ECOWAS Treaty, its Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons, the Right of Residence and Establishment of 1979 and its Additional Protocols.

In Senegal specifically, trafficking in persons takes various forms, such as child begging, sexual exploitation of girls and women in gold mining sites in Kédougou and domestic and transnational servitude. Smuggling of migrants takes place both by land and by sea. Young people looking to migrate, risk their lives and use the services of smugglers through Niger, Libya and the Mediterranean Sea to reach the Western countries. These phenomena pose real challenges to national governments and regional institutions.

In this context, a conference initiated by the Magistrates Union of Senegal (UMS), in partnership with the National Unit to Combat Trafficking in Persons and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), was organized from 17 to 19 April in Dakar, Senegal. The conference aimed at strengthening reflection and dialogue on the responsibility of judges in protecting victims of trafficking and smuggled migrants in Senegal.

The opening ceremony was presided by the highest Senegalese authorities, including the Prime Minister, the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General, to mark the Government’s commitment to combat these two scourges. The Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Principality of Monaco were also present during the ceremony represented respectively by the Ambassador and the Consul.

This event brought together 50 participants, including 6 women, from magistrates, sectoral ministries, national civil society, associations of Koranic Masters, police, gendarmerie, clergy and technical and financial partners. Participants were active, and made it possible to nourish debates and provoke reflection through contributions and concrete examples. As one of the magistrates recalled: "We are certainly magistrates, but we are also citizens".

To foster participation, all presentations were followed by discussions and debates. For instance, two groups were created to reflect on the actions to be implemented to combat more efficiently trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants in Senegal. A plenary session then followed, and provided an opportunity to discuss the recommendations prepared by the two groups. Among these recommendations, the importance of having two separate laws on trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants and of defining a national criminal policy to strengthen the prosecution of traffickers was particularly highlighted.

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