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Street Children

Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery

Poverty drives the unsuspecting poor into the hands of traffickers

Published reports & articles from 2000 to 2025                   

Republic of Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is an extremely poor nation with tremendous inequality in income distribution. While it possesses substantial mineral, agricultural, and fishery resources, its physical and social infrastructure is not well developed, and serious social disorders continue to hamper economic development. Nearly half of the working-age population engages in subsistence agriculture. Manufacturing consists mainly of the processing of raw materials and of light manufacturing for the domestic market. Alluvial diamond mining remains the major source of hard currency earnings accounting for nearly half of Sierra Leone's exports.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]

Description: Description: Description: SierraLeone

Sierra Leone is a source, transit, and destination country for children and women trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. The majority of victims are children trafficked internally within the country, largely from rural provinces, and sometimes from refugee communities, to urban and mining centers. Within the country, women and children are trafficked for: domestic servitude; commercial sexual exploitation; forced labor in agriculture, diamond mining, and the fishing industry; forced petty trading; forced street crime; and forced begging.   - U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June, 2009   Check out a later country report here and possibly a full TIP Report here



CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Sierra Leone.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Human Trafficking are of particular interest to you.  Would you like to write about Forced-Labor?  Debt Bondage? Prostitution? Forced Begging? Child Soldiers? Sale of Organs? etc.  On the other hand, you might choose to include precursors of trafficking such as poverty and hunger. There is a lot to the subject of Trafficking.  Scan other countries as well.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.


Children working in Sierra Leone mines

Lansana Fofana, BBC News, Freetown, 28 August 2003     

[accessed 22 December 2010]

BLESSINGS - Undoubtedly, the children number several thousands, and many of them get the blessing of their parents, who have come to see them as breadwinners of the impoverished families.  Over the past few days, I have been visiting the mine sites here and what I see is incredible.  The children aged between seven and 16 go to the mines as early as 0800 and work through to 1800.  They do hard labour, like digging in soil and gravel, before sifting with a pan for gemstones and shifting heavy mud believed to contain diamonds.

Boy soldier 'recruited' at the age of 6

The Times, March 30, 2004

[accessed 25 April 2012]

Kabba Williams is thought to have been Sierra Leone’s youngest child soldier. He was one of about 10,000 children forced to fight in the 11-year conflict by rebel or army troops and spent almost his entire childhood in their hands

One day in particular is etched on his memory. At the age of 12 he was given a group of captives to kill. “I had the nickname ‘Hungry Lion’. I was given a bayonet. They were tied up, six of them. I stabbed them repeatedly with the knife.”


*** ARCHIVES ***

2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Sierra Leone

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 23 June 2021]


Men, women, and child victims of forced labor originated largely from rural provinces within the country and were recruited to urban areas for artisanal and granite mining, petty trading, rock breaking, fishing and agriculture, domestic servitude, and begging (see also section 7.c. and section 6, Sexual Exploitation of Children). The Ministry of Social Welfare reported it was aware of trafficking, domestic service, mining, or other activities, but it had no specific data on these forms of forced or compulsory labor.


In remote villages children were forced to carry heavy loads as porters, which contributed to stunted growth and development. There were reports that children whose parents sent them to friends or relatives in urban areas for education were forced to work on the street, where they were involved in street vending, stealing, and begging.

According to the NGO GOAL Ireland, more than 45 percent of children aged 5-17 were engaged in child labor, with more than 20 percent involved in dangerous work. Children were on the streets selling water, groundnuts, cucumbers, and other items. Children engaged in petty trading, carrying heavy loads, breaking rocks, harvesting sand, begging, diamond mining, deep-sea fishing, agriculture (production of coffee, cocoa, and palm oil), domestic work, commercial sex, scavenging for scrap metal and other recyclables, and other hazardous work. Larger mining companies enforced strict rules against child labor, but it remained a pressing problem in small-scale informal artisanal diamond and gold mining.

As in previous years, many children worked alongside parents or relatives and abandoned educational or vocational training. In rural areas children worked seasonally on family subsistence farms. Children also routinely assisted in family businesses and worked as petty vendors. There were reports that adults asked orphanages for children to work as household help. Because the adult unemployment rate remained high, few children were involved in the industrial sector or elsewhere in the formal economy.

Freedom House Country Report

2018 Edition

[accessed 6 May 2020]


Reports of economic exploitation of workers in the natural resource sector are common. Barriers to access remain for individuals who wish to seek redress for economic exploitation.  While it is not common for individuals to take such cases to the formal legal system, there is little data on how such issues are handled.

Child trafficking remained a problem in 2017. Through August 2017, 698 cases of sexual exploitation of children were reported, and only 142 were referred for prosecution. Child labor is prevalent, despite laws limiting it.

2017 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking, Bureau of International Labor Affairs, US Dept of Labor, 2018

[accessed 22 April 2019]

[accessed 6 May 2020]

Note:: Also check out this country’s report in the more recent edition DOL Worst Forms of Child Labor

[page 883]

Sierra Leone is a source, transit, and destination country for children trafficked for forced labor in domestic work, granite and diamond mining, and begging; trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation also occurs. (3; 8; 20; 22).

Trafficking of African women is thriving

Francois Tillinac, International Labour Organisation (ILO) News, May 10 2007

[accessed 14 November 2010]

In January Italian police smashed several human trafficking rings involving African and eastern European females and netted some 800 suspects.

Outside Nigeria, other main sources of females for prostitution were the west Africa states of Cameroon, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Togo.  She said young girls were lured with fraudulent offers of jobs in Europe, only to end up being violently forced into prostitution.

Four Nations Move Against Trafficking in Response to U.S. Report

Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State, 10 September 2004

[accessed 4 September 2014]

Bangladesh, Ecuador, Guyana and Sierra Leone have acted rapidly over the last few months to reduce human trafficking in their borders. In so doing, they have avoided U.S.-imposed sanctions, according to a White House announcement September 10.

"These four countries made notable progress in many key areas including prosecution of trafficking related cases; creating police anti-trafficking units; increasing efforts to identify and rescue trafficking victims; drafting new anti-trafficking legislation and procedures; and conducting high-profile public awareness campaigns," said spokesman Scott McClellan. "These tremendous accomplishments will punish perpetrators and help innocent victims of this heinous crime around the world."

Sierra Leone court affirms child soldier recruitment is war crime

afrol News (African News Agency), June 3, 2004

[accessed 22 December 2010]

The Special Court for war crimes committed in Sierra Leone's civil war has made what rights group hail as a "historic court decision". The Court, which only is to handle the gravest war crimes committed in Sierra Leone, affirmed that the recruitment and use of child soldiers was under its jurisdiction and an internationally illegal war crime.

International law history has been written in Sierra Leone. The International Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers today welcomed the decision by the UN-backed Special Court, confirming that the recruitment and use of child soldiers as a crime under international law.

Sierra Leone - Human Rights

Aisling Ireland, BellaOnline

[accessed 22 December 2010]

Sierra Leone is probably is the poorest country of the world due to the ravaging civil war and the terrorist activities of the Revolutionary United Front, or RUF. For both men and women, living under these conditions is producing hundreds of thousands refugees and internal displacement. Generally speaking, it is difficult to differentiate between women's rights and human rights. Women and children are known to be the principal war victims. women and Children are often submitted to rape, sexual slavery, forced labour, torture, mutilation and forced recrutiation by the RUF. The RUF is notoriously known to use terror against the civil population, especially Women and Children. Violations such as these are one of their principal war tactics. The biggest UN peacekeeping force in history is present, so now exists some hope of peace in the country.

USAID/Sierra Leone Transition Strategy Phase 2 - Fy 2004 – Fy 2006

USAID Sierra Leone

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 11 September 2011]

BACKGROUND - The emergence of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), a loose grouping of former Sierra Leonean soldiers and mercenaries backed by Liberian president, Charles Taylor, in early 1991 led Sierra Leone down the path of a brutal, decade-long civil war. It was to claim more than 20,000 lives, destroy an estimated 3,000 towns and villages, and displace over half of Sierra Leone’s 4.5 million inhabitants. Abductions, serial rape, involuntary conscription of adults and children alike, forced labor, sex slavery, and amputations were the means by which all parties to the war terrorized and subdued the local population.

Open letter to Permanent Representatives at the African Union (AU) regarding the case of Charles Taylor, former President of Liberia, indicted for crimes against humanity and war crimes

Amnesty International, Index Number: IOR 63/007/2004, Date Published: 3 August 2004

[accessed 22 December 2010]

This decision is a betrayal of the tens of thousands of African victims of the worst possible crimes imaginable committed during the conflict in Sierra Leone. Charles Taylor has been indicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone, established at the initiative of Sierra Leone, for "bearing the greatest responsibility" for crimes against humanity, war crimes and other serious violations of international law falling within the Special Court’s jurisdiction and committed against African men, women and children. The crimes with which he is charged include killings, mutilations, rape and other forms of sexual violence, sexual slavery, conscription of children, abduction and forced labour perpetrated by Sierra Leone armed opposition forces with his active support as President of Liberia.

2004 UN Commission on the Status of Women. Violence against Women: universal but not inevitable!

Amnesty International, Index Number: IOR 41/004/2004, Date Published: 1 March 2004

[accessed 22 December 2010]

[accessed 22 December 2010]

VIOLENCE IN POST-CONFLICT SITUATIONS - Peace processes have routinely failed to include women and to deal with gender issues, which can result in gender-based persecution and violence being rendered invisible in peace agreements and not taken into account in their interpretation and implementation. For example, an AI delegation which visited Sierra Leone in 2000 reported that the process of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants was failing to address the experiences of the many girls and women who had been abducted by armed opposition groups and forced to become their sexual partners. It appeared that when they reported for disarmament and demobilization, they were often not interviewed separately from their "husbands" and not offered a genuine opportunity to leave the armed forces, if they wished to do so. These women and girls, many either pregnant or with young children, required support to either return to their families where possible or to re-establish their lives together with their children.

UNICEF: War fuels Africa human trafficking

Jonathan Fowler, Associated Press AP, Geneva, April 23, 2004

[partially accessed 28 August 2011 - access restricted]

[accessed 24 February 2019]

Some 80 percent of African nations reported "internal trafficking," where individuals do not cross borders but are shifted around the country to meet demand for cheap household and farm labor and prostitution.

Flawed or nonexistent birth registration makes it easier for traffickers to move youngsters between countries, because unregistered children never formally acquire a nationality, said Rossi.  "It becomes impossible to prove whether a young girl working as a housemaid in Gabon, for example, really comes from that country or has been trafficked from elsewhere," he added.

In sub-Saharan Africa, over 70 percent of births go unregistered, according to a separate U.N. study. That represents about 17 million children.

Sierra Leone haunted by 'silent war crimes'

Victoria Brittain, The Guardian, 16 January 2003

[accessed 22 December 2010]

Unknown numbers of the thousands of women and girls abducted by the rebels still remain with their "husbands" in conditions of sexual slavery, although the war was declared over a year ago, HRW reports.  There has been no accountability for the thousands of crimes of sexual violence, and a climate of impunity persists, the report says, allowing the perpetrators of sexual violence (as well as other crimes) to escape justice.  Survivors of rape and other sexual crimes - some boys as well as the thousands of women and girls - need "drastically increased funding for trauma counselling, health, education and skills training", according to HRW.

Sierra rebels free child soldiers

BBC News, 26 May 2001

[accessed 22 December 2010]

Rebels in Sierra Leone have released nearly 600 child soldiers as part of a process of ending the west African country's decade-long civil war.

Children have carried out some of the worst atrocities of the war, including hacking off the limbs of enemies and civilians.

Forced labour, human trafficking, slavery haunt us still

International Labour Organisation (ILO) News, World Of Work, No. 39, June 2001

[accessed 22 December 2010]

[accessed 15 February 2018]

The report notes that outright slavery, though increasingly rare in the modern world, is still found in a handful of countries, and the wholesale abduction of individuals and communities in such conflict-torn societies as Liberia, Mauritania, Sierra Leone and Sudan is not uncommon. The forced recruitment of children for armed conflict, deemed one of the worst forms of child labour, is also on the rise.

Sierra Leone: Childhood - a casualty of conflict

Amnesty International Canada, May 2000

[accessed 3 September 2012]

MAY 2000 - CHILDREN AGAIN FORCED INTO CONFLICT - In his Fourth Report on UNAMSIL to the UN Security Council on 19 May 2000, the UN Secretary-General cited preliminary reports which suggested that child combatants were being used extensively as hostilities resumed. UNAMSIL human rights officers who visited Masiaka on 15 May 2000 observed several child combatants, mostly boys, with the CDF, the AFRC and former Sierra Leone Army and the reconstituted Sierra Leone Army. Some 25 per cent of the combatants observed were under 18 and some freely admitted that they were between 7 and 14. Almost all of them were armed.

Concluding Observations Of The Committee On The Rights Of The Child (CRC)

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 28 January 2000

[accessed 22 December 2010]

[52] The Committee notes the introduction by the State party of the 1989 Adoption Act, but is nevertheless concerned that child nationals of the State party may remain vulnerable to problems of illegal adoption, including inter-country adoption.


Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 11 February 2020]

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS – The country continued to be a source, transit point, and destination for internationally trafficked persons. The majority of victims were women and the majority of traffickers were thought to be family members or friends who lured victims from their home villages with promises of education, caretaking, or employment.

There were no specific figures on the number of persons trafficked. However, anecdotal reports indicated the following: children were trafficked from the provinces to work in the capital as laborers and commercial sex workers and to diamond areas for labor and sex work; persons were trafficked from neighboring countries for domestic and street labor and for commercial sex work; persons were trafficked out of the country to destinations in west Africa, including Nigeria, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau for labor and sex work; persons were also trafficked to Lebanon, Europe, and North America; and the country served as a transit point for persons trafficked from elsewhere in west Africa and possibly the Middle East.

The Department of Labor’s 2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

U.S. Dept of Labor Bureau of International Labor Affairs, 2005

[accessed 22 December 2010]

Note:: Also check out this country’s report in the more recent edition DOL Worst Forms of Child Labor

INCIDENCE AND NATURE OF CHILD LABOR - Trafficking in persons declined with the demobilization of child soldiers following the end of the civil conflict.  Children have been trafficked to Liberia as forced conscripts, and to Europe where they were exploited through fictitious adoption schemes.  Internally, children continue to be trafficked from rural areas to Freetown and to diamond mining areas for purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor

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