ANTHONY OMOHIT has been discovered that air travel has become a fast rising mode of transportation for people who engage in the nefarious activity of human and organ trafficking and so it is important to highlight some tips to look out for when certain people are travelling.
The trend has grown unchecked so much that the fight against this scourge requires a collaborative effort, especially from those who operate around the airport, police, state security, airline, airport authority, regulators and even average travelers.
First off, human trafficking is a human rights violation that involves the practice of an individual or group holding another person(s) in compelled service by compulsion, coercion, duress or fraud.
These traffickers ensnare their victims into either forced labour, sex trafficking and other nefarious vices by manipulating their weakness through force, threats, lies, induced addiction and any other psychological coercion.
In the last few years, according to Director General, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Dame Julie Okah-Donli, there have been reports of large numbers of Nigerians trapped in sexual and labour exploitation in North Africa Countries especially Libya, Asia and European countries, apart from the hundreds that continue to die in the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea.
According to Dame Donli recently, ” To date, about 408 traffickers have been convicted and are serving various jail terms and almost 17000 victims have been rescued and counselled with good number of them empowered by the Agency including (5) five victims who were trained from primary schools to the university level who are now officers of NAPTIP.”
It is against this back drop that the right orientation be given to these ill-informed youth searching for greener pastures at the expense of their freedom and more often than not their lives.
So how do we identify people that are about to be trafficked?
There are human traffickers everywhere around the globe using land, sea or air transport as a means ferry their victims out of the country and so it is important to say something and do something if one suspects cases of trafficking as the distance between thought and action, although split is enough to take that decision that would save a victim.
- At the airport, it is advised to report to aviation security or any other security if:
-You observe an individual or group of individuals within the same age range under the control of another person.
-If the individual is fearful, anxious, depressed submissive
-If they show signs of substance abuse
-If they (he/she) have little or no personal possession yet travelling, get people to engage them
-If you observe individuals or group of individuals not in control of their travel documents
-If the individual is seemingly scared or silent, or if the individual is not allowed to speak for themselves, meaning a third party must insist on being present to translate.
-if the individual is not free to leave or go and come as they please.
-Then if you notice the group or individual with inconsistent stories, or unsure of their mission or sometimes even lacking knowledge of their final destination.
For babies or accompanied minors sometimes it is difficult however some security personnel and even airlines have been able to fish out baby traffickers due to inconsistency and sometimes lack of filial relationship.
- For traffickers there are some key indicators that help raise a red flag on their activities:
-If the suspect is fearful, anxious, tense, nervous or just downright paranoid, he/she needs to be looked at a second time.
-If they exhibit unusual fear or anxious behavior after bringing in law enforcement or immigration.
In truth, the list above is not exhaustive and only focuses on some scenario and these red flags may not even be present in every trafficking case so keen observation is required so when travelers or security see anything out of the ordinary, they say and do something because once that individual has crossed that threshold, it takes a miracle to find the perpetrators out.
- Here are some recent cases of thwarted human trafficking cases:
- Nigeria Immigration
On October 9, 2018; eight Ghanaian women between the ages of 20 to 25 were apprehended for alleged prostitution by men of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos in an attempt to pass through Lagos to Kuwait where they hoped to cross to Europe for prostitution.
The ladies were booked on Egypt Air out of Lagos to Cairo, from where they had hoped to transit to Kuwait before departing to Europe. Officials of immigration at the command had suspected the ladies immediately they approached their counters for processing and queried them on their mission out of the continent through Nigeria especially when they were in possession of Ghanaian international passports.
The source said that after questioning, the ladies confessed that they had wanted to use Nigeria as a transit point to Europe as they had entered Nigeria through road via Togo and Benin Republic, pointing out that their sponsors had advised them to use Nigeria as a transit point to Europe, which failed with their arrest.
The source gave the names of some of the ladies arrested to include; Tordro Gifty; 22, Odurowaa Millicent; 20, Abotsi Gift, 24 and Bisuat Fustina, 25.
Upon their apprehension, it was gathered that the ladies were handed over to officials of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking In Persons (NAPTIP) who drove them out of the airport.
The source said: “When our officers interrogated the ladies, they discovered that they had no genuine reasons for attempting to use Nigeria as a transit point to Europe. So, this led to further query from our officers. When they were asked, they confessed to the fact that they were actually crossing to Europe, but had hoped to land in Kuwait first.
- Air Peace Crew on Banjul flight
Another case transpired with an airline on June 4, 2018, when two female traffickers Mrs. Edith Anthony-Ibeneme and Mrs Emerald Bassey, wanted to traffic a three-month-old boy using an Air Peace Lagos-Banjul flight
As the story goes, “On Air Peace Lagos-Banjul flight P47560 on June 4, our vigilant and experienced crew observed a baby crying inconsolably. The crew members, therefore, approached the supposed mother to breastfeed the crying baby. She declined, giving a flimsy excuse for her decision. The alleged mother of the baby eventually asked our crew for water to give to the baby when he would not stop crying.
“Our crew members, however, observed that the alleged mother of the baby was struggling to give the baby the water. At that point, the crew offered to assist and took the baby from the supposed mother but when attempt was made to return him, the baby expressed fright and unwillingness.
“Given the situation, our crew summoned the alleged mother to the aft of the aircraft for questioning on her relationship with the baby. She claimed the baby boy was a product of a surrogacy arrangement and was being taken from Nigeria to Banjul in The Gambia.
“Unconvinced, the crew informed our ground staff in Banjul of the development.
“When the flight eventually landed in Banjul, the two women travelling together with the baby were separately questioned and contradictions were observed in their different accounts,” the airline’s account read.
Okah-Donli said the baby was brought back to Nigeria on March 19 and was currently under the care of NAPTIP, stressing that the agency was working with the Gambian authorities to extradite the suspects.
- FAAN AVSEC at MAKIA
Most recently, 10th November, 2019 at the Mallam Aminu Kano Airport officers of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Aviation Security (AVSEC) apprehended two women, Mrs. Ibukun Adebuke and Mrs. Emilia Owolabi suspected to be human traffickers trying to whisk a six-month-old baby away to Lagos.
According to reports, one of the traffickers, 56-year-old Mrs. Adebuke was Lagos-bound on board an Azman Air aircraft with a six months old baby while her cohort was waiting at the departure both have been handed over to the police and National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NATIP) for further investigation and prosecution.
An AVSEC source narrated the incident,” It’s unusual seeing an old lady travelling with a baby at the screening point and so we profiled her by asking first who owns the baby, she said the baby was hers and so we asked her to breastfeed the baby and she refused stating that the baby was on supplements, this piqued our interest further
“When again we asked who the baby belonged to, she said it was hers that the baby was adopted and so we asked her for the name of the orphanage or where the baby was from she could not provide that either, neither could she provide the documents for adoption
“Further questioning led her to tell us the baby’s mother’s name was Emilia Owolabi and she was seated at the Departure lobby of the Kano Airport. This led to aviation security apprehending Mrs. Owolabi, the suspect’s accomplice.
Both women were handed over to the Police and NATIP, another agency with jurisdiction and statutory rights in human trafficking matter was called in.
These are just some popular cases and so eternal vigilance against the fast multiplying scourge is needed