By Nellie Peyton
DAKAR, Oct 30 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A new online database of human trafficking cases will 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.
The West African country is a source, transit and destination country for trafficking, with children forced to beg on city streets and young women trafficked for sex work in mining camps.
But there is no reliable data on how common this 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 Candide Migan, a programme assistant at IOM. "At the very least this will shine a bit more light on which cases make it to the courts."
The system is in a pilot phase in five regions, with a goal to expand it nationwide.
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.
This is the most prevalent form of trafficking in the country, according to IOM, although many cases of forced begging are not prosecuted under the anti-trafficking law. (Reporting by Nellie Peyton; editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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