More than 100 potential human trafficking victims, including 35 minors, have been rescued and identified during an INTERPOL-led operation to strengthen border controls in West Africa.
The seven-day (16 – 22 July) Operation Adwenpa IV involved more than 200 frontline officers from 13 countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. The operation was funded by the German Federal Foreign Office.
Many of the minors, aged between 12 and 17, were identified at the land border between Benin and Niger. In Ghana, authorities identified more than 50 potential victims travelling to the Middle East for employment.
MIND technology, which allows frontline officers to run checks against INTERPOL’s database of wanted people and stolen and lost travel documents and receive an instant response, was used at the 23 airports and land border operational hubs.
As part of INTERPOL’s permanent effort to tailor technical solutions to the policing needs of each of its 194 member countries, officers also tested innovative prototype tablets permitting checks against INTERPOL databases anytime and anywhere whether a network is available or not.
These reinforced, systematic border checks led to 270,000 checks during the operation generating 13 ‘hits’, including stolen or lost travel documents and individuals sought for fraud, the sale of counterfeit pharmaceuticals and cocaine trafficking.
For the first time, three participating countries used the West Africa Police Information System (WAPIS), which allows officers to access critical police information from their national criminal databases. This led to a hit on a suspect known to police for identity theft on a social networking site.
Operational highlights also included the arrest of a Guinean national travelling without official identification attempting to smuggle six bars of solid gold worth $120,000.
In Côte d’Ivoire, smugglers attempted to bring in a total of 12,000 kg of counterfeit pharmaceutical products from Ghana. The seizures are estimated to have a market value of EUR 900,000.
Illicit drugs including cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamines were also seized throughout the region.