4 déc. 2008

Trafic d'enfants à Sierra Leone

La police sierra-léonaise ont demantelé ce qu'ils désignent comme étant plus grand gang de traite d'enfants dans les pays d'Afrique de l'Ouest depuis la fin de la guerre civile il y a trois ans. Quelques 29 enfants ont été victimes de traite d'enfants vers les États-Unis auraient sous les auspices de Help A Needy Child International (HANCI), qui gère un orphelinat et un foyer pour enfants démunis en Sierra Leone, du nord de la ville de Makeni. Détails dans RIGHTS-SIERRA LEONE: Police Dismantle Child Trafficking Syndicate (IPS News, 27 août 2004.)

Trois employés locaux de l'organisation HANCI sont accusés d'avoir fait sortir clandestinement des enfants de la Sierra Leone par la Guinée ou le Ghana où ils ont été remis à une agence d'adoption basée aux États-Unis. Détails dans Sierra Leone aid workers accused in child smuggling ring, publié le 27 août 2004 dans Relief Web

Dans Voice of Handicap (VOH 96.2) , des parents mécontents de Makeni (Sierra Leone) ont exigé de Help a Needy Child International (HANCI) les quelques 200 de leurs enfants qui auraient été victimes de trafic à l'étranger depuis 1997. Ces enfants étaient pris en charge par HANCI pendant la période de guerre, mais ils ne savent pas encore où ils se trouvent. Les parents soupçonnent l'organisme qui prenait soint de leurs enfants de les avoir vendus à l'étranger et qu'il serait possible que cet organisme ait été utilisé comme une agence de trafic. Détails dans Child Trafficking: Parents accuse HANCI par Ishmael Bayoh, publié le 26 novembre 2008 dans Awoko.org.

Suite aux allégations des parents accusant HANCI d'avoir trafiqué plus de 200 de leurs enfants, le Directeur des opérations de HANCI a répondu que son organisation n'avait pas à faire avec le trafic. Dans un interview avec Awoko, le Directeur a expliqué que ce n'est pas la première fois que les parents les accusaient de trafic d'enfants vers l'étranger. Détails dans HANCI reveals ‘no hands in child trafficking’ par Ishmael Bayoh, publié le 27 novembre 2008 dans Awoko.

RIGHTS-SIERRA LEONE: Police Dismantle Child Trafficking Syndicate

By Lansana Fofana

FREETOWN, Aug 31 (IPS) - The Sierra Leonean police have busted what they refer to as the biggest child trafficking syndicate in the West African nation since the end of the civil conflict three years ago.

‘’We have arrested and charged three persons thought to be the brains behind the syndicate. And we are doing all in our power to have the Sierra Leonean kids trafficked to be brought back home,’’ says police commissioner for crime services Richard Moigbeh.

Some 29 children were recently trafficked to the United States allegedly under the auspices of ‘Help A Needy Child International (HANCI), which operates an orphanage and a home for destitute children in Sierra Leone’s northern town of Makeni.

The scheme went like this: two of the prime suspects currently in police custody Henry Abu and John Gbla would allegedly identify and approach destitute parents and propose to them the adoption of their children by foster parents.

The unsuspecting parents who could barely afford food for the family let alone send their children to school fall in for the bait and gladly give away their children.

Moigbeh says the children are first placed in an orphanage and then ‘’taken to a neighbouring country like Guinea or Ghana, in batches before finally being flown to the United States.’’

Their parents, he adds, are hardly informed about the true picture of what then happens to their children. A U.S.-based agency, the Maine Adoption Placement Service (MAPS) had allegedly been colluding with HANCI to facilitate the trafficking, he claims.

But HANCI operations manager Kelfa Mallay has denied the child trafficking allegations. His charity activities, he says, do not even include adoption of children. ‘’We did have a working relationship with the U.S. agency MAPS but we’d separated a couple of years ago,’’ Mallay told journalists.

He said Abu, one of the suspects on trial was initially a staff of HANCI but broke off later and together with his co-accused Gbla, set up their own charity and acted as desk officer for MAPS.

There has been no reaction from MAPS about the allegations.

But the police say, while prosecution of the three suspects is underway, efforts are being made to have the children in the United States repatriated home and reunited with their families.

Moigbeh told IPS: ‘’We have been in constant touch with MAPS in the U.S. and they’ve acknowledged receiving the 29 children. Our job now is to see how we could secure the children and have them returned to their families here (in Sierra Leone).’’

He describes the child trafficking scam as a criminal offence and has dispatched police officers to trace the biological parents of the other children at the Cherith orphanage in Makeni to reunite them with their parents.

‘’In the meantime, we are going to place those children at the orphanage (in Makeni) under the protection of the ministry of gender and children’s affairs,’’ Moigbeh adds. The exact number of children at the Cherith orphanage has not been disclosed but police describe its operations as suspect.

Reactions to the child trafficking scam have been mixed. While many acknowledge the criminality of the syndicate, the difficult economic circumstances are equally advanced for such a social vice.

Margaret Kabia, a mother of six who lost her husband during Sierra Leone’s war, says: ‘’If they are legitimately adopting my kid, I would offer even two. I am an unemployed single parent struggling to bring up six children. This is simply too much for me’’.

Osman Jalloh, a businessman in the capital Freetown, considers child trafficking as an offence. ‘’It (child trafficking) is unjustifiable in all its forms. I can understand the economic problems in the country but that should not warrant anyone to prey on poor parents and criminally traffic their children without their consent,’’ he says.

Bassie Conteh, a push-cart driver in Freetowm, says: ‘’For me, there’s nothing wrong with it. At the end of the day, I know my kid would be in America and help me back home.’’

Sierra Leone is a signatory to the convention on the right of the child. Having experienced first hand the abuse of children during the country's civil war such as forceful conscription, rape and enslavement, the authorities are apparently acting tough on child right abuses.

Poverty, deprivation and the break-up of traditional family ties have made children even more vulnerable to various forms of abuses. An official at the ministry of social welfare told IPS last week that more stringent measures would be adopted to protect the rights of children.

‘’We would closely monitor orphanages and other child-care NGOs in order to ascertain their activities. Such a scam is unacceptable and must be put to halt once and for all,’’ the official said.

Human and child trafficking is fast becoming a problem in the West African sub-region. Two weeks ago, a derelict vessel was seized by Spanish police with the help of Guinean and Sierra Leonean security forces on high seas attempting to traffic some 500 would-be illegal immigrants. Many were thought to be young people.
The police say their investigations into the latest scam in Sierra Leone are continuing. (END/2004)

Sierra Leone aid workers accused in child smuggling ring

FREETOWN, Aug 27 (AFP) - Three employees of a Sierra Leone child welfare organization are to face trial next week on charges they smuggled 31 children to the United States for adoption, officials said Friday.

Social Welfare Minister Shirley Gbujama said three local employees of the Help a Needy Child International organization (HANCI) are alleged to have smuggled the children out of Sierra Leone through Guinea or Ghana, where they were handed to agents from a US-based adoption agency.

HANCI is based in the northern town of Makeni, where Sierra Leone's devastating decade of civl war has produced the highest proportion of street children and orphans in the west African state.
The children were adopted through Maine Adoption Placement Services (MAPS), based in the northeastern US state of Maine, according to the arrest warrant for the three men.

Local media reported that HANCI was paid roughly 3,000 US dollars for each of the children.
MAPS officials were able to process documents and visas there without any reference to adoption procedures in Sierra Leone, which require that families spend six months with their potential adopted child before they can take them home.
Sierra Leone assistant police commissioner Chris Charley said the national police had been contacted via the US embassy by Interpol for help in the case, which dates back as far as 1998.
"As soon as we were informed, we immediately took over responsibility of the children's home and we are now constantly monitoring its operations," Gbujama said.

Temporary charges have been filed against two of the three men. John Gbla, a former HANCI employee who started his own child-services organization, faces five counts of child stealing for allegedly taking children for adoption without their parents' consent.
The three are being held in custody without bail ahead of their trial on August 30.
The United Nations children's agency UNICEF says child trafficking occurs in 89 percent of African nations. Child welfare activists say that while no numbers are accurate, it is estimated that some 200,000 children are trafficked around the world's poorest continent.
Copyright (c) 2004 Agence France-Presse

Child Trafficking: Parents accuse HANCI

Disgruntled Parents The Voice of Handicap (VOH 96.2) was the dramatic scene yesterday when some parents from Makeni demanded from Help A Needy Child International (HANCI) some 200 of their kids who they claimed have been trafficked abroad since 1997.
The affected parents said they took their case to the Executive Director of 96.2, Taiwo Cullen after losing faith in both the Police and the Courts over the years.
These kids were taken care of by H.A.N.C.I during the war period, but their whereabouts according to the parents have still not been known. The parents say they suspected that the organization which was taking care of their kids might have sold them abroad and that it might be possible that that organization was used as a trafficking agency.
In an interview with Awoko, the Chairman of the campaign for the return of the kids, Sulaiman M. Suma explained that his two kids were taken away and that they were given documents by the organization stating that the children were doing fine. He stated that in1997-98, they were regularly visiting the kids at the center where they were kept.
He continued that when the war intensified, the children were taken to Guinea and when the man who took the kids to Guinea returned later he told them that the children had been taken abroad. “We asked him when the kids will be returning he told us they will be returning after the war.”
Samura continued that after some time he heard from a local radio in Makeni announcing that two white men had arrived in the town to search for the parents of some children taken abroad during the period their kids were taken. It was said the parents of the kids were dead.
He further explained that he tried to contact the white men whom he met in Freetown at a bar with one Mr. Gbla whom they accused of taking the kids from the parents. “I immediately went with some police officers where they took the details of them and invited them to the station”
Continuing he went on, “when the white men reported at the police station they were later charged to court.” We were coming from Makeni to attend court. At times we will come and either the case is adjourned or not heard. This was what we were doing as our aim was to know the whereabouts of our children.”
He said further that the former Attorney General called all parties in his office and threatened to lock them up if they did not bring back the children but the only thing they did was to send pictures of some children and notes indicating that they were doing well at School. That he said they were not satisfied with as what they needed was to know exactly where their children were and with whom and their telephone numbers.
Continuing with their search, he said years later when they made further complaints, they were told that the children were adopted. “It was surprising to us to hear that word because we did not sign any adoption document”
He said the first time they met Taiwo Cullen, some H.A.N.C.I officials were there and were told by Cullen to return the children in the nearest possible time but that did not happen.
Yesterday at 96.2, the affected parents assembled to take their case further with police officers later intervening and inviting both parties to the CID. Taiwo Cullen was not at the office to be spoken to whilst several efforts to contact officials at H.A.N.C.I proved futile.
By Ishmael Bayoh

HANCI reveals ‘no hands in child trafficking’

Following accusations made by some parents yesterday against Help A Needy Child International (HANCI) alleging the trafficking of over 200 of their children abroad, the Operations Director of HANCI, Kelfa Kargbo has reacted that his organization has no business in trafficking.
In an interview with Awoko at HANCI’s Pademba Road Office, the Operations Director explained that this is not the first time that parents are accusing them of trafficking children abroad.
He disclosed that he joined the organization in 1998 and that what use to transpire was that the issue of adoption went through the courts. Problems and accusations became evident as recommendations from the courts were not adhered to. Amongst the recommendations are that HANCI should establish a way how the family should be in contact with the adopted families abroad; but this has not been the case. Hence the Director has written series of letters to the former Attorney General and also the current one, drawing their attention to the recommendations of the court.
When questioned as to who should have acted on the recommendation, he explained that it was supposed to have been done by the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs as they are the contact point.
He revealed that HANCI started the adoption program for some few months before letting hands off it. “Three break away staff members from HANCI continued with the adoption program, forming their own NGO called CHERITH”, he said.
Concerning arrangements, Kelfa Kargbo revealed that he was informed that the adoptive parents had plans to come and work with the biological families. “Two of them came last year and this was what sparked the whole confusion among parents; as when they came, they asked to meet with the biological families. The then Director for the break away group then made an announcement on air that the adoptive families were in town and would want to speak with the biological parents; but access was not given to speak to the parents”, kelfa said.
Luckily for the families, the Operations Director went on; the parents met HANCI Director, Roland Kargbo and spoke to him about how they were not able to meet with the adoptive parents. There and then Dr. Kargbo urged them to make sure the adoptive parents realize they were the biological parents.
He stressed that HANCI has no business in the child trafficking issue and that since they closed their adoption desk in 1997, all the children who were with them are in the Country; and those who were taken to Guinea were not taken by HANCI but by CHERITH. “We started the adoption process but it was CHERITH that completed the process” he said.
What he said was the mistake done by HANCI was that when they were closing down their center, no documents were sent to the parents informing them to collect their children.
By Ishmael Bayoh

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