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Crime & Punishment of Thursday, 14 February 2008

Source: GNA

GIS bust human trafficking syndicate

Accra, Feb. 14, GNA - The Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) have put all entry points into the country on high alert as human trafficking syndicates following the smashing of two human trafficking syndicates operating between the Middle East, Togo and Ghana.

Two Lebanese and a Ghanaian, Ibrahim Zubairu, a lecturer at the Accra Polytechnic, suspected to be the behind the smuggling rings were arrested and are assisting in investigations on using for using Ghana as entry point to Europe.

The two Lebanese, Ali Hussein and Mohammed Hussein are brothers. They operate the Phoenicia Restaurant at the Airport Residential Area. The modus operandi of the syndicates is to recruit persons in the Middle East, transport them through Togo to Ghana, where fraudulent travel documents are provided to the immigrants and attempts made to smuggle them through the Kotoka International Airport to Europe. Alternatively, the recruited persons arrive in Ghana purportedly in transit to Togo and melt into the system, where the organisers would be waiting for them.

Mr. Moses Kwabena Gyamfi, a Deputy Director of Immigration told newsmen in Accra on Wednesday that the trend of smuggling persons of Middle Eastern and Asian nationalities was observed and broken last year when batches of Iraqis, Lebanese, Palestinians, Sri-Lankans and Bangladeshi nationals were intercepted.

He said in all cases, fraudulent Guinean, Canadian, British and Swedish passports were seized and the victims repatriated and the smugglers could not be traced until in the current case where both victims and perpetrators were arrested. Mr Gyamfi revealed that three Lebanese and four Iraqis who were supposed to be smuggled to Europe through Ghana were being held in custody in Ghana.

He said investigations revealed that the Iraqis, made up of a family of two men, a lady and a child, were recruited in Syria and transported to Lome in November 2007, where they were smuggled into Ghana in December 2007, through unauthorised routes at night by some Ghanaians. In Ghana the Iraqis paid 12,500 dollars to the Ghanaian agents who acquired fraudulent South African passports and Lufthansa Airline tickets for them to travel out of Ghana on the 28th of December 2007. However the Iraqis were not able to make it out of the country and have since holed up at a house at Dzorwulu until they were picked up by the GIS on February 6, this year. Mr Gyamfi said the Iraqis were being treated as victims and were under observation pending when arrangements were concluded to send them back to their country. He said in the other case, which the GIS investigated for over a month, five Lebanese entered the country in transit to Togo but they failed to appear at the Aflao border outpost. An attempt was made to smuggle them out on a KLM airline but they were refused boarding and the airline failed to alert immigration authorities, leading to two of them leaving the country through the Aflao border. Mr Gyamfi said that when the GIS intensified its search for the other three, the syndicate attempted to smuggle them out through Aflao, leading to their interception at the Prampram Police barrier by undercover immigration officers on the dawn of February 12, this year. He said the issue of human trafficking constituted a serious threat to national security, especially in the era of increased terrorist activities, and called on the public to assist the GIS in its operations by reporting suspicious movement or presence of foreigners to it for necessary action.

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