Police: Time is up for human traffickers

Police are closing in on leaders of a Kigali-based racket of human traffickers whose activities threaten to turn the country into a source of girls and young women sold into sex slavery in neighbouring countries and the Middle East.
YOU ARE WARNED: Police are closing in on human traffickers, according to Rwanda National Police spokesman, Theos Badege. Sunday Times/File
YOU ARE WARNED: Police are closing in on human traffickers, according to Rwanda National Police spokesman, Theos Badege. Sunday Times/File

Police are closing in on leaders of a Kigali-based racket of human traffickers whose activities threaten to turn the country into a source of girls and young women sold into sex slavery in neighbouring countries and the Middle East.

Details of this racket and names of the ring-leaders emerged last week after police interviewed six young women recently rescued from sex-slavery in neighbouring Uganda. 

Security agencies have categorised as “very serious crime” the problem of human trafficking in the region.

Police say they are in possession of the names of the perpetrators whose arrest will be carried out any time this week. “We already have some names and will possibly have some arrested [this week]. We plan to close investigations into that case by next week (read this week),” Rwanda National Police (RNP) spokesman Theos Badege told the Sunday Times in an exclusive interview.

The women, the youngest among them aged only 18, were repatriated back into the country on July 20 and have been reunited with their families after months of captivity inside a brothel in Bushenyi, western Uganda. The oldest of the six victims is 23 years old, meaning the racket is targeting teenage girls and young women – some of who should ideally still be in school.

The girls have reportedly told police that they were lured into captivity with a promise of jobs in Uganda’s growing hotel and hospitality industry. It also emerged last week that the perpetrators of the crime duped the victims together with their parents that the girls were being taken to work – the reason no parent ever reported a case of a missing child to the Police or local authorities.

How the girls were taken

The Sunday Times has learnt that the girls were contacted individually with a promise of employment while in Uganda. The local agents then facilitate the victim to process travel documents used to cross the border by road. Once in Uganda, they were handed to a Ugandan contact who eventually led them to the brothel.

In Uganda, the girls reportedly told Police that they were subjected to sexual exploitation by providing sex to different men in return for money paid to the brothel owner.

According to Badege, the girls would only gain their freedom upon intervention by the Rwanda Police attaché in the Rwandan high commission in Kampala who acted on a tip off from an informer.

There are several others cases of girls rescued from captivity or when they are just about to arrive at the destination – incidents that seem to suggest that the crime is more prevalent than previously thought to be. According to police records, another woman was recently rescued from Malaysia through the Rwanda embassy in Japan.

Also, during the year, a Bangladesh girl was intercepted at Kigali International Airport as she was being trafficked to Mozambique. The girl was flown back to her country and reunited with family, Badege said.

“This is a very serious crime because it is cross-border. We, as police, have rated trafficking in humans as very serious – at the same level as trafficking arms and drugs. In collaboration with our counterparts we want to make sure that no country is a source, a transit route or a recipient in this inhuman and dehumanising crime,” Badege said.

According to the United Nations Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, 2012, women and girls account for 75 per cent of trafficked humans and out of every three children detected, two are girls – underlining the danger faced by women in this growing phenomenon.

This is supported by findings of the same report that shows that 58 in every 100 persons trafficked globally are taken for sexual exploitation with central Asia as the leading destination of victims from other regions.

This is not the first time police has unearthed a racket involved in trafficking of persons. In April last year, police saved three girls from being trafficked to China, reportedly for commercial sex work.

The girls had been promised jobs in China but one of the would be victims became suspicious when she realised that she was not required to pay even for her visa or air ticket. She told her parents who alerted the Police and three men were arrested.