(AA) – Dozens of Liberians on Tuesday staged a peaceful protest outside the U.S. embassy in Monrovia to decry the alleged trafficking of dozens of Liberian girls to Lebanon in coordination with state security personnel.
“There are over 50 Liberian girls being used as sex slaves in Lebanon,” Tetee Gebro, a female journalist and activist, told The Anadolu Agency.
She alleged that the girls had been trafficked by a Lebanese businessman who had promised to find them jobs and send them to school.
“Because of the high levels of poverty in Liberia, these girls thought he was a good person,” said Gebro.
Holding placards and chanting slogans, protesters called on the U.S. to appeal to the Liberian government to ensure that the girls are brought back to the country and prosecute the culprits, who they say include Liberian state security personnel.
They accused the Liberian government of dragging its feet on the issue.
The petition was not received by U.S. Ambassador Deborah Malac herself, but by Sally Hodgson, the embassy’s head of public affairs.
“We have interest in this case. I am going to give this petition to Ambassador Malac very soon,” Hodgson promised.
At least 62 girls are said to have been taken from the country by a Lebanese businessmen in collaboration with certain Liberian nationals.
Following a storm of public debate, a government team – led by Labor Minister Neto Zarzar – was dispatched to Lebanon last month to investigate the claims.
Ten Liberian girls were later brought back to the country, with another four arriving last week.
Since their return, the government has kept the girls at an unknown location, preventing their families – and the public – from interacting with them.
The girls’ isolation has further infuriated their families and rights activists.
Lebanese authorities were not immediately available for comment.