Sudan police rescued nearly 100 victims of human trafficking and migrant smuggling in an Interpol co-ordinated operation.
Operation Sawiyan in August involved 200 Sudanese officers who rescued 94 victims, including 85 minors, from criminal networks involved in illegal migration, child labour and exploitation and forced begging. The officers represented national agencies including the Criminal Investigation Department, Immigration, Human Trafficking, Child Protection Unit, as well as Interpol’s National Central Bureau in Khartoum.
Police also seized USD 20,000 which they believe included ransom money obtained from abduction of a migrant. The victim was among those rescued during the operation.
With investigations ongoing 14 (12 women and two men) suspected traffickers were arrested.
The operation at multiple hotspots in Khartoum, including its international airport, as well as at open-air gold mines east of the city.
Building sustainable law enforcement capacity to investigate and handle cases of human trafficking and migrant smuggling is at the heart of Interpol’s Vulnerable Communities strategy.
Under the auspices of Interpol’s Project Flyway, Operation Sawiyan was preceded by an Interpol operational training session to enhance skills, including specialist victim and offender interview and investigative techniques.
Access to Interpol’s secure communications system I-24/7 was deployed to operational hotspots, providing police with real-time access to criminal global databases containing millions of records, including on stolen and lost travel documents and biometrics.
“Operations such as Sawiyan provide an opportunity for Sudan to strengthen international co-operation with Interpol’s global network, particularly on issues related to human trafficking and people smuggling,” said the Director of Sudan’s Criminal Investigation Department, Major General Hussein Naveh Mahmoud.
Project Flyway helps member countries protect vulnerable communities in North Africa and the Sahel region through capacity building, operational support and consolidation of global information sharing platforms.
Forced labour and exploitation
Many of the minors rescued during Operation Sawiyan were found working under extreme conditions in illegally-operated gold mines, where children as young as10 were handling dangerous chemicals and substances including mercury and cyanide.
“One consistent aspect arising from our operations against human trafficking is abuse of the inherent vulnerability of the victims and the perilous conditions they are made to work in for profit,” said Interpol Executive Director of Police Services, Tim Morris.
Evidence in the region shows victims of trafficking for forced labour are recruited and trafficked using deception and coercion and held in bondage in a variety of labour intensive activities, including mining.
Victim assistance and protection
With Sudan a country of origin, transit and destination for people smuggling between Africa and Europe, victims rescued during the operation originated from Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Niger, Sudan and South Sudan.
“The diversity of nationalities among the rescued shows how human trafficking and people smuggling is a truly transnational problem which requires a co-ordinated international response with police and stakeholders sharing information and best practices,” Morris said.
In this regard Interpol’s National Central Bureau in Khartoum worked with national agencies including Sudan’s Child Protection Unit to facilitate provision of immediate assistance and protection to victims rescued.
Longer-term assistance for victims is being provided by Sudan’s Ministry of Social Affairs.