Sunday, June 01, 2008

France pledges co-op to end trafficking from Africa

France's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Human Rights Rama Yade

From Xinhua:

PARIS, May 30 (Xinhua) -- The government of France is willing and ready to join hands with African countries as part of wider efforts to combat the trafficking of human beings from the continent for the purposes of sexual exploitation, French media reported Friday.

Towards this end, the French interior ministry is currently holding an international seminar on trafficking in human beings of African origin for the purposes of sexual exploitation with a view to strengthening cooperation between European countries and their African counterparts.

France's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Human Rights Rama Yade presided over the opening ceremony of the two-day seminar that began in Paris Thursday.

"We want to ensure that there are concerted efforts between our European neighbors and the source countries which mainly include Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon," said Jean-Marc Souvira, head of the Central Office for the Suppression of Trafficking in Human Beings (OCRTEH).

The government-run agency has so far helped dismantle and disrupt over 25 African prostitution networks in three years in France alone, according to official figures.

According to official estimates, some 60,000 young African women are victims of sexual exploitation in Western European countries such as Germany, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Britain and France.

The characteristics of this prostitution, which is normally perpetrated through a multitude of channels often family-linked, made the job of investigators very difficult and treacherous, Souvira told the two-day meeting, underscoring the need for joint efforts and cooperation between source countries and Europe.

"African women are subjected to a legal constraint, often through bewitchment and traditional practices which serve to advance the cause of human traffickers," said the French official, adding:

"It is easier to fight against the physical constraints that are imposed on girls from Eastern Europe."

But according to Patience Ashorkor Quaye, Deputy Chief of Police in Accra, which has become a regional transit point in recent years, the factors which had continued to propagate the presence of the vice laid elsewhere.

"Despite the fact that these practices do exist, the essential breeding ground for prostitution on the African continent is the high levels of poverty," said the Ghanaian police officer, adding that "most parents also agreed to give their children as they are misled not aware of what happens on the other end."

"Ghana cannot wage the fight against a global phenomenon on its own," said Quaye, expressing gratitude that the seminar was taking place to try and come up with joint strategies to deal with the problem.

The seminar, which is set to be addressed by France's Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, is aimed at formulating operational solutions, including the establishment of joint judicial investigation teams and the creation of a working group bringing together Interpol, countries and source destination sources.

Currently, an estimated 30 percent of prostitutes across France are originally from the African continent compared to just below 10 percent in 2000, OCRTEH said in a report recently, stressing that the problem could get out of hand if not addressed with the urgency it deserved.

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