Senegal is a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking, with children forced to beg on city streets and young women trafficked for sex work in mining camps.
Hoping to combat this problem, a new online database of human trafficking cases was designed to help Senegal crack down on a rampant crime that is little understood, highlighting hotspots and profiling crooks in a bid to curb the growing trade in people, the government said on Wednesday.
The ‘Systraite’ system will collect information on victims, convictions, traffickers and more, hoping better data cuts opportunities for crime, a justice ministry official said.
Currently there is no reliable data on how common trafficking is or where it is happening, said Awa Ndour, a programme officer in the National Unit for Combating Trafficking in Persons (CNLTP).
“In Senegal, we don’t have enough formal statistics to be able to do an evaluation,” Ndour said.
“We wanted to create a data collection system that will allow us to analyse the evolution and trends in human trafficking,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Systraite was officially launched last week in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and with funding from the U.S. Department of State.
IOM, a United Nations agency, provided computers and internet modems to juvenile courts and prosecutors so they can enter data into the system, as well as organising training.
“It’s an important step because what poses a problem most of the time is data,” said CandideMigan, a programme assistant at IOM. “At the very least this will shine a bit more light on which cases make it to the courts.”
Anti-trafficking experts have pushed for technology to be used more in the fight against human trafficking, in part because the criminals themselves increasingly use tools such as mobile apps and cryptocurrency.
In West Africa, authorities are just starting to use digital systems at a basic level to share information and work together.
Human Rights Watch estimates that 100,000 children are forced to beg in Senegal, usually as students at Koranic schools where many families consider it tradition. (Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation)