New Regional Road Map to Strengthen Counter-Trafficking in West Africa

The ‘Freetown Roadmap’ was signed, setting a regional framework to combat human trafficking through collaboration. Photo: IOM/Alfred Fornah 2023 

Freetown – Thousands of young women and boys are trafficked yearly in West Africa for sexual exploitation or forced labour. As part of an effort to fight this, representatives from member countries of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) unveiled a roadmap to end human trafficking in the region.  

The roadmap further enhances the effectiveness of measures already outlined in the ECOWAS Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons. It will set anti-trafficking priorities for the region – such as sharing lessons learned and strategies to implement national action plans, promote stronger data collection mechanisms, and find opportunities for regional mechanisms to strengthen prevention, protection of trafficking victims, and prosecute traffickers.  

“This Conference offers a new opportunity to enhance regional collaboration on information sharing, victim identification, and providing services to survivors,” said President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, His Excellency, Dr Julius Maada Bio. “It is also an opportunity to strengthen the regional referral system and to intensify the rollout of the ECOWAS Biometric ID system that will facilitate the safe movement of people across ECOWAS.”  

“The fight against human trafficking is a moral and humanitarian imperative for ECOWAS and the phenomenon represents a serious obstacle to human security and peace,” said H.E. Dr. Omar Alieu Touray, the President of the ECOWAS Commission. “In view of the cross-border nature of human trafficking, the Government of Sierra Leone has taken the commitment further, mobilizing other ECOWAS member states and critical stakeholders to build consensus on counter-trafficking initiatives.” 

With 20 years of working on this issue, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) recognizes that combatting trafficking in persons requires comprehensive approaches and strong partnerships with government, UN agencies, civil society and NGOs to make tangible progress in combatting and preventing human trafficking. 

“This Conference is an example of the key role that ECOWAS can play in coordinating actions among Member States and giving them policies and tools for the implementation at the national level. I wish to commend ECOWAS for its commitment to working together with IOM to achieve collective solutions,” said IOM Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Christopher Gascon. 

Partnership is critical to the success of anti-trafficking efforts. The US Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Cindy Dyer, emphasized the need for stronger partnership and further expressed the commitment of the US Government to support the fight against human trafficking in the region.

“We are deeply committed to engaging with both government and civil society stakeholders in the region to support and strengthen anti-trafficking responses.  As my boss, Secretary of State Tony Blinken, has said, human trafficking is a global problem that requires a global coalition to confront it.” 


For more information, please contact Alfred Fornah, Media and Communications Assistant at IOM Sierra Leone, Email: