A joint operation by police personnel in Nigeria and Benin Republic has led to the rescue of 157 children.
The International Criminal Police Organisation, simply known as INTERPOL, disclosed this in a statement saying the 157 minors were among a total number of about 220 victims of human trafficking rescued by the police in the operation coordinated by INTERPOL.
The minors were aged between 11 and 16, with the youngest rescued at the land border between Nigeria and Benin Republic.
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The police also seized vehicles, cash, mobile phones and computers in the course of the operation and some victims were equally rescued from premises where they were forced into prostitution, while 47 suspects were arrested as investigations continue.
In his reaction, INTERPOL Secretary General, Jürgen Stock, described human trafficking as a transnational crime from which the vulnerable, especially children, simply cannot walk away.
“This operation underlines the need for cross-border collaboration between law enforcement and all stakeholders to ensure that together we can enhance our prevention, protection and prosecution efforts,” the INTERPOL chief stated.
During the operation, the police found a boy who had been forced to carry clandestinely between the two countries heavy goods, including bags of rice weighing up to 40 kg.
According to INTERPOL, all the victims originated from Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria and Togo explaining that the victims were recruited and trafficked by means of deception and coercion, after which they were held in bondage in various labour intensive activities.
The organisation added that before regaining freedom, many of the minors were moved around as ‘merchandise’ themselves, across the border.
The victims were also forced to work in markets all day, peddling goods, fetching water, cooking, and carrying heavy loads. In other cases, some were made to work as housemaids and others were victims of sexual exploitation.
INTERPOL said most of the minors endured beatings and psychological abuse, as well as death threats and warnings that they would never see their parents again.
It, however, highlighted some of the steps taken to ensure the rescued victims receive the necessary care following their rescue. These include social services while some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) undertook post-operation interviews and provided support services to the victims.
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