[Stop-traffic] News/UK-Nigeria: British Envoy Bursts Child Smuggling Racket

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] News/UK-Nigeria: British Envoy Bursts Child Smuggling Racket
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Wed Oct 11 2000 - 11:16:05 EDT


                   British Envoy Bursts Child Smuggling Racket

OTC 9/15/00 10:59 PM

Lagos (Post Express, September 16, 2000) - Two major attempts in two weeks
at child trafficking between Lagos and London have been foiled by the
Deputy British High Commission, a top official of the mission told The Post
Express on Wednesday.
    The envoy who is at the top level cadre of the section of the deputy
high commission that handles visas and other immigration matters declared
the method of the alleged child - traffickers as "highly sophisticated."
    "It has been discovered that this is a thriving business which did not
just start today," he said. "Twenty-two children and 14 adults were
involved in these two foiled attempts," said the envoy.
    But he added that over 200 cases had been detected recently by the
eagle-eyed staff of the visa section of the Deputy British High Commission,
Lagos. He hinted that the alleged child-smugglers may have chosen Lagos as
their base of operations because of the heavy human traffic at this office
which they hoped to exploit. The Lagos office is said to handle more visa
applications than its main office in Abuja.
    Pleading anonymity since he did not want to celebrate the incidents, the
diplomat explained the way the suspected child-trafficking has been going.
    "From what we found, the children, aged between 12 and 16, are certainly
not the children of these adults. The children did not seem to know the
names they were supposed to be bearing. Such names too were usually
different from those of the adults. So they were certainly not related."
    The envoy who said he has "seen it all" in his years at the British
diplomatic mission also explained that the passports used in these foiled
attempts were usually new. That suggested, according to him, that the
travel documents were obtained strictly for the purpose of human
trafficking.
    In all situations, said the source, the suspects were usually handed
over to the local police for further investigations. He declined however to
disclose the names of the suspects, saying that was a matter for the
Nigeria Police force.
    "This very professional and organised trafficking to Europe, I must tell
you, is for some criminal purpose. I cannot rule out prostitution in the
case of the females," he said. But he was sure that Britain, his home
country, was not the final destination of those who may have escaped the
vigilant eyes of the mission and Nigerian authorities.
    He sympathised with the suspected smugglers and their intended victims,
saying he was very aware of the difficult times Nigerians were facing. But
he insisted that part of his duty is to stop immigration crimes and he
would do it. Describing the rate of frauds related to visas as very high in
Nigeria, he hoped that Democracy and good governance would help to ease the
people and their country out of their problems.
    The spate of visa denials to Nigerians intending to travel to Western
countries has been a major source of worry to Nigerians. Even government
officials are now known to complain of being humiliated with visa denials
by American and European visa officers.
    The issue became a major issue that the Nigeria authorities had to
present to the United States President Bill Clinton when he visited Abuja
last month. Clinton confessed that there were indeed established cases
where many Nigerians with genuine reasons to travel to the US were denied
visas.
    But our source insisted this was not the case with the British
diplomatic missions in Nigeria. He said that over 80 per cent of visa
applications received by his office were usually granted.
    "You cannot rule out human error in some of the cases of rejection," he
said. "But the truth is that most of such applications were usually
accompanied by forged documents."
    He however pledged improved services in future.
    By Chris Onuorah, Foreign/Defence Editor
  Distributed via Africa News Online.
             -0-

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