LYON, France – More than 100 suspected child trafficking victims have been identified and taken into care and 11 individuals arrested following an operation led by police in Burkina Faso and supported by INTERPOL. Dozens more children have also now been returned to their families following child labour investigations.
Involving nearly 100 police officers, Operation Cascades (25-27 October) took place across Burkina Faso’s western Cascades region and in the capital Ouagadougou, and also included customs and environmental officers, non-governmental organizations, officials from the Ministries of Health and Social Affairs, and prosecutors. It was supported by officers from INTERPOL’s National Central Bureau in Ouagadougou and from its Regional Bureau in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, as well as by officers from INTERPOL’s Trafficking in Human Beings unit at its General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon.
During the three-day operation, police officers checked highways linking Burkina Faso’s capital to other regions in the country and to adjoining countries, and also raided illegally-operated gold mining quarries in the Cascades region. Authorities took 177 children into their charge, of which 103 suspected trafficked children were taken into care by social services, while another 74 were returned to their families as part of an awareness campaign against child labour.
The operation on the ground was preceded by a three-day police training course tailored for the operation, and was led by the participating INTERPOL officers, national prosecutors and social services officials.
With a number of investigations on-going and further arrests expected from the operation led by Burkina Faso's police, the Assistant Director of INTERPOL’s Trafficking in Human Beings unit, Jonathan Eyers, underlined the role of national, regional and international law enforcement collaboration against child trafficking in which children are subject to violence, forced labour, sexual abuse, and deprived of food, shelter, schooling and medical care.
“Operation Cascades will help provide a clearer picture on the extent of child trafficking in the region and on potential regional criminal networks. It shows the vital role that law enforcement, underpinned by INTERPOL and its global tools and services, plays in supporting local, national and international agencies against the exploitation of vulnerable children by unscrupulous individuals and criminal gangs,” said Mr Eyers.
The operation was conducted under the framework of INTERPOL’s programme of Operational Assistance, Services and Infrastructure Support (OASIS) to African police forces, funded by Germany. It aims to help countries in Africa develop a global and integrated approach to fighting 21st century crime by developing operational capacities for policing in the region and enhancing the ability of INTERPOL member countries to tackle crime threats nationally, regionally and globally.
The initiative in Burkina Faso followed Operation Bia in Côte d’Ivoire in June 2009, which targeted illegal child labour and resulted in the rescue of 54 children.