Forty-eight child victims of trafficking have been rescued and 22 alleged traffickers have been arrested pursuant to the AKOMA Police Operation carried out at the beginning of June 2015.
The AKOMA Operation is the latest of a series of operations against child trafficking and exploitation in West Africa. It is supported by the innovative partnership between INTERPOL and IOM. The counter-trafficking activities are carried out in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. The Operation was carried out in the cocoa and trade sectors in the San Pedro area, located in the South-West of Côte d’Ivoire.
The AKOMA Operation was conducted in two phases. First: a two-day multidisciplinary training that focuses on specific investigation and interrogation techniques. Training targeted more than 100 law enforcement officials and social workers. Second: a police operation to identify, interrogate and arrest alleged traffickers and rescue their victims.
The operation was supported by the Inter-Ministerial Committee against human trafficking, the First Lady’s Chamber; the Ministry of State for Employment, Social Affairs and Vocational Training; the Ministry for Solidarity, Family, Women and Children as well as several NGOs.
In the joint IOM-Interpol exercise, which is a pilot project funded by the Human Dignity Fund (HDF), IOM is in charge of the victims’ assistance which includes but is not limited to recovery, psychosocial counselling, return and reintegration, while INTERPOL coordinates the law enforcement aspects, including the prosecution of alleged criminals with the support of the Specialised Counter-Trafficking Unit.
A multi-disciplinary team of social workers, nurses, doctors and psychologists, supervised and coordinated by IOM staff, was put into place in police intervention areas, in order to provide first relief assistance (food, medical and psychological), while carrying out the preliminary hearings to identify the victims of trafficking and worst forms of child labour. The children were then transported to a secured Transit Centre based in San Pedro for a second hearing to better assess the situation and identify their specific needs.
IOM, in coordination with the social workers, over the next months, will provide tailored assistance to those children and identify ad hoc durable solutions (such as return to their biological family or foster families) to ensure their long-term reintegration and prevent a possible return to the trafficking networks.
As poverty is one of the driving causes of trafficking, IOM will assist the most vulnerable families through income generating activities to increase their livelihood and ensure the proper care of their children.
The majority of the children and their families were not aware of the illegality of child trafficking and child labour and the operation provided the opportunity to raise awareness on these issues.
Source: International Office of Migration (IOM)