Western-backed charity kidnapping children in Ghana – BBC

The International Justice Mission reportedly wrongly removed at least two children and prosecuted their relatives as traffickers

The International Justice Mission (IJM), a deep-pocketed anti-slavery charity, has wrecked the lives of at least two families in Ghana in the name of saving their children from trafficking, according to an undercover investigation by BBC Africa Eye published on Monday. 

The BBC confirmed two documented cases in which children were removed from their families by Ghanaian police acting under IJM’s instructions in traumatizing nighttime raids. Their relatives – some of whom were also “kidnapped” in the dead of night – were then prosecuted for trafficking, leaving them penniless and ostracized, if they won the case, or locked up away from their children for years, if they didn’t. 

During the September 2022 raid dubbed ‘Operation Hilltop’, police removed four children from the village of Mogyigna, including 11-year-old Fatima, who was carried away from her grandmother as the older woman was held at gunpoint. Two of Fatima’s uncles were arrested. 

An undercover reporter who joined IJM observed that even as staff told police and social services that the children from Mogyigna had been trafficked to work as “slave laborers” on manmade Lake Volta, the group’s legal officer told their internal WhatsApp group that there were “no elements of trafficking” in three of the four children’s cases at all, and that the fourth was disputed by the child’s family. 

The group had removed the children anyway because it claimed they were “at risk” of child labor, isolating them for over four months in an IJM shelter with no news of their families while Ghanaian social services confirmed that no trafficking had taken place.

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The children were eventually sent home, but not before Fatima’s grandfather had died and her uncles, who had been prosecuted for child trafficking and child labor, had been forced to spend their savings on transportation to court and bail hearings before their names were finally cleared. IJM is so deeply embedded into the prosecutorial fabric of Ghana that a lawyer for the charity actually stood in for the state prosecutor during one of the hearings, the BBC reported.

A senior IJM staffer told the undercover reporter that the NGO had a quota system, requiring a certain number of rescues and prosecutions per year. Workers who failed to meet those targets were supposedly denied pay raises and even risked losing their jobs. Failing to retrieve children from a raid was not an option, according to one worker, who told the undercover, “We can’t say we didn’t get even one [child], we need to get some.” 

IJM, which takes in over $100 million (£78 million) in funding annually, defended its rescue and prosecution targets as necessary for stopping child trafficking, but denied any penalties existed for failing to meet them. The group described Operation Hilltop as a success. 

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