West African Criminal Networks of Illegal Immigration

West African Criminal Networks of Illegal Immigration

Each year tens of thousands of people from West African countries are transported by road to North Africa, mainly Morocco, from where they to Spain across the Strait of Gibraltar, whether hidden in trucks, which make the journey aboard ferries, or rafts.

In some cases there is also the smuggling of illegal immigrants by sea directly to France and Italy from North African countries.

The German authorities have discovered the following routes used for smuggling illegal immigrants from West Africa:

– By air, from Nigeria to Germany, the Netherlands or Belgium.

– By air, from Nigeria to Italy, which plays an important function as a distribution center, and from there to Germany, the Netherlands or Belgium.

– By land, sea and land again, following the Nigeria – Morocco – Spain – France – Germany.

Sierra Leone and Liberia are also among the countries of origin, and that women are encouraged to enter Ceuta, Spanish city located in the North African coast, to become pregnant and then ask the Spanish authorities that the move to mainland Spain. In fact, it appears that more and more visibly pregnant women or newborn children seeking access to mainland Spain aboard rickety boats.

The Spanish authorities also found the use of a route by air and by land: immigrants come from Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Liberia, and fly in directly to the Netherlands, from where they travel to Spain by train.

According to British authorities, illegal immigrants from West Africa arrive to the United Kingdom mainly by air. In this country it has been found also an organized child trafficking by Nigerian, who poses as their parents. It has often been used in Ireland as the first point of entry into the European Union on its way to the UK. In general, as reported by the BKA, Nigerian often organizes marriages of convenience to facilitate illegal immigration and encouraging the commission of other crimes.

The Irish authorities have reported that 50% of Nigerian emigrating to the European Union chose Ireland as a destination. In the first ten months of 2004, 2864 Nigerian applied for asylum in Ireland. Nigerian companies and individuals seek for massive invitations to conferences, which are used to obtain the travel documents. After arrival they interrupt contact with the university or institution that has sent the invitation.

According to Nigerian police, in 2004 a total of 7206 people, mostly girls, were deported to Nigeria, 80% of which came from Saudi Arabia, Italy and Spain. However, only 21 people were arrested and charged on the export of minor to perform work in inhuman conditions. Since the estimated price that this type of offenders charged only for a voyage by sea from the Gulf of Hammamet (Tunisia) to the Italian coast is 1,000 USD per person. Although it is possible to calculate the real benefits obtained with this business, there are reasons to believe that their actual costs are low. Therefore, given the few arrests that are practiced in connection with this crime, it seems that the smuggling of migrants is a profitable, low risk, with great potential to interest the West African criminal networks.

The prostitution rings in West Africa, and in some cases complicit in other places, recruiting women between 15 and 35 years primarily in Nigeria, Liberia, Ghana and Sierra Leone. It is estimated that only Europe arrive each year to 10,000 Nigerian women trafficked. Some of the victims of this business knowingly accept work as prostitutes, while others are attracted to other countries with the promise that there will work as models, in companies or as domestic workers, or that will be offered the opportunity to study. Arriving at his destination the captors confiscated his passport. For example, one known case in which the Nigerian network tried to use Guinea as a transit country of 35 girls for the sex trade in Europe, mainly in Italy.

According to information available, the European Union countries which are used as destination point for these women are Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK, Spain, France and Italy. This does not mean that other European countries are not affected by this type of crime committed by the West African networks. Switzerland is another country. Often women are victims of this crime to be exchanged between different groups to be exploited in various countries. According to reports, these exchanges have taken place in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.

The information available indicates that INTERPOL most used routes in this activity are air, directly from Nigeria to France, Italy and the UK. But there have also been other overland from West Africa across the Sahara and then by sea across the Mediterranean to Europe.

In Germany and the Netherlands have been detected using voodoo rituals. The woman is led first to a voodoo session in their home country. Then in the destination country of the European Union is preparing a package according to the rituals of voodoo and is given to a member of the network as a guarantee of the obligation for women to pay the “debt” owed by eligible transport and receive a series of forged documents. To pay this “debt”, women are prostitutes on the streets or in brothels run by madams originating in West Africa. According to Germany, these madams are in turn controlled by low-level traffickers often contracted marriages of convenience with local criminals to obtain a residence permit. If necessary, use violence to control women. It is difficult to take action against this type of network since, as is customary in the West African organizations, there is often no clear link between petty criminals and responsible for the network.

Often, the victims of this crime do not cooperate with security forces, either by fear of violence can be exercised against relatives in their home countries or superstition. The police forces must take this into account if they wish to improve their effectiveness in combating such networks. When women pay the “debt”, they return to their home countries or stay in the European Union, effectively “promoted” to the position of madam.