Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Operation Busts Trafficking Ring with Victims from Nigeria

Sorry for my hiatus. A bit of holiday traveling kept me from contributing as I should. Back to work! From the IHT:

Italian and Dutch authorities on Tuesday arrested dozens of Nigerians accused of smuggling their compatriots into Europe to work as prostitutes and drug traffickers, police said.

The police operation also uncovered that it called "serious adoption irregularities" in which Nigerian women living in Italy were apparently able to take infants from Nigerian orphanages and then sell them abroad, a police statement said.

Officials offered few details at a news conference, saying that they knew of only one case in which two children were taken from an orphanage and handed over to a prostitution "madam" in Italy. But officials said they believed it was a growing trade and that one aspect of the investigation would now focus on contacting Nigerian authorities to ensure that such illegal international adoptions end.

Overall, authorities carried out 66 arrest warrants early Tuesday, all but 15 of them in Italy...

The suspects in Italy are accused of mafia association, criminal association aimed at human trafficking, slavery, kidnapping, and international drug trafficking, police said.

Many of those arrested were prostitution madams, who pay thousands of euros for each new girl to be smuggled into the country, said Giovanni Conzo, an anti-mafia prosecutor in Naples where the Nigerian operation carried out much of its work.

Other young Nigerians were used as drug mules, paid about 3000 Euros per trip to swallow cocaine or heroin in condoms and transport it around Europe, he said.

As the article states, few details were released curtailing the variety of information available on the actual bust. The BBC mentioned that the gang's activities earned the organization hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Human and drug trafficking are two of the most lucrative international crimes, along with arms trafficking. The operation has been an on-going investigation and prosecution process with around 150 people arrested in the last year. This probably should have been more obvious, but something I found nonetheless interesting, the investigation has found that drug smuggling has been able to go low-cost due to the availability of low-cost travel (particularly air fare) in Europe.

The only thing in the article I didn't find encouraging was the statement made by Italian Interior Minister Giuliano Arnato, which alluded to the arrests being proof of a new slave trade growing in Europe, taking advantage of poor Nigerians. Only in the sense that awareness and reaction, is the problem new. In fact, some of the hits I got while trying to get more information on the arrests led to articles from as early as 2001 detailing the horror of Nigerian children trafficked into Europe in large numbers.

Making Noise, Inc. is a non-profit media group that focuses using communication to raise awareness about social justice issues in Africa. They run a small blog on their site dedicated to Nigerian sex-trafficking to Italy. The promo was not ok, but the information in the blog posts is interesting.

Probably the most informative source I found was an article from Migration Information Source, a project of the Migration Policy Institute in Washington DC, is an informational webpage with articles and statistics from every region of the world on migration issues. Their July 2005 paper on "Trafficking in Women from Nigeria to Europe," while limited in the scope of victims, provides the reader with information on the process of trafficking from Nigeria to Europe from start to finish, including the settings of Nigeria and Italy (push and pull factors), how the women are trafficked, the usual route of traffickers to Italy from Africa, how the criminal organization sustains itself, etc. I was very impressed and if the arrest prompts you to take a further look into the problem specifically dealing with Africa and Italy, I highly suggest this site.

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