KHARTOUM, Sudan – Police in Sudan have rescued nearly 100 victims of human trafficking and migrant smuggling in an INTERPOL-coordinated operation.
Operation Sawiyan (26 – 30 August) involved 200 Sudanese officers who rescued 94 victims, including 85 minors, from criminal networks involved in illegal migration, child labour and exploitation, and forced begging. The officers represented national entities which include the Criminal Investigation Department, Immigration, Human Trafficking, Child Protection Unit, as well as INTERPOL’s National Central Bureau in Khartoum.
Police also seized USD 20,000 which they believe included ransom money obtained from the abduction of a migrant. The victim was amongst those rescued during the operation.
With investigations ongoing, 14 (12 women and 2 men) suspected traffickers were arrested.
The operation was held at multiple hotspots in Khartoum, including its international airport, as well as at open-air gold mines to the East of the city.
Building sustainable law enforcement capacity to investigate and handle cases of human trafficking and migrant smuggling is at the heart of INTERPOL’s Vulnerable Communities strategy.
Under the auspices of INTERPOL’s Project Flyway, Operation Sawiyan was preceded by an INTERPOL operational training session to help officers on the ground enhance their skills, including specialist victim and offender interview and investigative techniques.
Access to INTERPOL’s secure communications system I-24/7 was also deployed to operational hotspots, providing police with real-time access to criminal global databases containing millions of records, including on stolen and lost travel documents and biometrics.
“Operations such as Sawiyan provide an important opportunity for Sudan to strengthen its international cooperation with INTERPOL’s global network, particularly on pressing crime issues related to human trafficking and people smuggling,” said the Director of Sudan’s Criminal Investigation Department, Major General Hussein Naveh Mahmoud.
Project Flyway helps member countries protect vulnerable communities in North Africa and the Sahel region through capacity building, operational support and the consolidation of global information-sharing platforms.
Forced labour and exploitation
Many of the minors rescued during Operation Sawiyan were discovered working under extreme conditions in illegally-operated gold mines, where children as young as ten were also handling dangerous chemicals and substances such as mercury and cyanide.
“One consistent aspect arising from our operations against human trafficking is the abuse of the inherent vulnerability of the victims, and the perilous conditions they are made to work in for profit,” said INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services, Tim Morris.
Evidence in the region shows that victims of trafficking for forced labour are recruited and trafficked using deception and coercion, and held in bondage in a variety of labour intensive activities, including mining.
Victim assistance and protection
With Sudan a country of origin, transit and destination for people smuggling between Africa and Europe, the victims rescued during the operation originated from Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Niger, Sudan and South Sudan.
“The diversity of nationalities amongst those rescued shows how human trafficking and people smuggling is a truly transnational problem which requires a coordinated international response in which police and stakeholders share information and best practices,” added Mr Morris.
In this respect INTERPOL’s National Central Bureau in Khartoum worked with national agencies including Sudan’s Child Protection Unit so as to facilitate the provision of immediate assistance and protection to victims rescued during the operation.
Longer-term assistance to the victims is being provided by Sudan’s Ministry of Social Affairs.