Niger Arrests 18, Rescues 232 in Human Trafficking Crackdown

Niger’s police have arrested 18 suspects of human trafficking and crimes against children and have rescued 232 of their victims, INTERPOL said in a statement on Wednesday.

Niger InterpolPolice, INTERPOL rescued girls forced into sexual exploitation in Niger. (Photo: INTERPOL)The number, according to the statement, includes 46 minors, mostly locals, under the age of 18. Among them were 37 girls aged 10 to 17 who “had been forced into sexual exploitation.” Other children had been taken from their families and forced to beg across the country’s capital of Niamey.

The abuse caused “serious physical conditions, including advanced human papillomavirus infections,” so the rescued children had to receive immediate medical attention, the statement said.

The rest of the rescued victims were men from Ghana who have been recruited online and promised a “decent job.” Upon arrival in Niamey, however, the traffickers have confiscated their travel documents and enslaved them for forced labor, it said.

“Whether it’s children, men or women, traffickers show little regard for the health and well-being of victims, they are simply a commodity to make money,” INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock said commenting on operation ‘Sarraounia.’

More than 100 Nigerien National Police officers took part in the operation at numerous hotspots in the capital. Prior to their deployment, the officers were trained on how to interview the victims.

“Operation Sarraounia has shed much light on several criminal groups and trafficking routes,” the head of INTERPOL National Central Bureau in Niger, Police Commissioner Barka Dankassoua said.

“The skills our officers have learned will be put to good use as we follow up on a number of leads,” he added.

Niger’s problem, as Reuters reported, is that the country is a source, destination and transit for human trafficking at the same time. Thousands of migrants pass through it en route to North Africa and Western Europe every year.

The country last year increased trafficking convictions and trained more law enforcement officers to fight the crime, making a slight progress, according to the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) annual report.