Interpol west Africa border operations snares child traffickers

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Nearly 40 people either being smuggled or trafficked for illicit labour were this week identified and rescued during an Interpol co-ordinated operation to strengthen border controls in west Africa.

A large number of those rescued are unidentified minors who were being taken to work on illegal gold mines in Guinea. The remainder were people who paid smugglers to move them to Europe via Libya.

The eight day long Operation Adwenpa 111 saw more than 100 officers working 23 sites across key land borders and airports in eight countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo.

A bonus, from the policing point of view, was the discovery of more than 300kg of counterfeit pharmaceutical products during the operation. The medication was found at Abidjan airport and led to a house used for warehousing and packaging of fake medication and the arrest of six people.

Officers at the Noe land border between Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana seized 1,624 kg of counterfeit medicines in another breakthrough on this particularly smuggling front.

In addition to identifying five vehicles on Interpol’s Stolen Motor Vehicles database, officers also recovered counterfeit passports and other identity documents.
“The operation showed the range of activities in which organised crime is involved. In addition to helping protect communities, interventions such as these are part of a longer term solution where information sharing and cross-border co-operation between law enforcement agencies is essential,” said Harold O’Connell, Director of Interpol’s Capacity Building and Training unit.

Funded by the German Federal Foreign Office, Adwenpa III builds on the success of two previous operations as part of a multi-year capacity building programme to strengthen border management in west Africa.

Under the programme, representatives from law enforcement agencies including customs, gendarmerie, border police and AIRCOP’s Joint airport interdiction task forces took part in a training session earlier in the year to provide them with the skills and expertise for the practical side of the operation.