INTERPOL rescues 54 child slaves in West Africa
The international policing cooperative said the operation targeted child trafficking in West Africa.
“Nearly 300 Ivorian law enforcement officers participated in the two-day operation (18-19 June) during which eight teams (six mobile and two fixed) simultaneously targeted a selection of plantations believed to be using illegal child labour,” INTERPOL said in a statement.
“In addition, vehicles travelling on the main roads leading from Ghana were systematically checked for potential child victims,” the organization said.
“Codenamed ‘BIA’ after the river which separates Ghana from Ivory Coast, the operation resulted in the rescue of 54 children of seven different nationalities, clearly demonstrating the extent of transnational child trafficking in the region,” it said.
“The children had been bought by plantation owners needing cheap labour to harvest the cocoa and palm plantations. They were discovered working under extreme conditions, forced to carry massive loads seriously jeopardizing their health,” said a statement.
The children were aged between 11 to 16. They received no pay for the work despite 12-hour days.
“Girls were usually purchased as house maids and would work a seven-day week all year round, often in addition to their duties in the plantations,” the statement said.
With Ghana and Ivory Coast producing around three quarters of the world’s cocoa, it is believed that hundreds of thousands of children are working illegally in the plantations across these two countries alone.