General News Thu, 24 May 2012

18 people arrested for human trafficking

The security agencies, acting on intelligence reports from the Canadian Security Network, have arrested 18 people and detained a vessel at the Tema Port suspected to be engaged in human trafficking activities from the West African coast to Europe.

Three of the suspects were arrested at the Paga Border while they were attempting to escape to Burkina Faso, while the rest were picked up from their hideouts in Tema.

The MV Ruvuma, supposed to be used in transporting people, is currently under detention at the Tema Fishing Harbour under heavy security guard, while the names of the suspects are being withheld for security reasons.

The acting Director-General of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA), Mr Richard Abugri Anamoo, yesterday led a Canadian delegation, including the Canadian Special Advisor on Maritime, Human Smuggling and Illegal Migration, Mr Diedrah Kelly, to inspect the vessel at the Tema Fishing Harbour.

He explained that Canadian Intelligence on a vessel being prepared for human trafficking activities alerted the Port Security Network to an invasion by a syndicate of suspected illegal immigrants in Ghanaian waters.

Mr Anamoo said the Tema Port Task Force, comprising the GPHA, National Security, the BNI, the Ghana Maritime Authority, the police, the military, among others, therefore, kept surveillance.

The vessel turned out to be the MV Ruvuma, a registered fishing vessel which had docked at the port.

He said about four weeks ago, the Security Network was able to trace the suspects, mostly from South East Asia, to their hideouts where they were arrested and put in custody.

He said information available indicated that the vessel, which was originally a fishing vessel, had been sold to a new owner, who is a Spaniard.

A member of the task force, Mr Patrick Appiah Oppong, who spoke to the media, said there was a syndicate operating along the West Coast luring people into accepting the offer to transport them to Europe.

He said six Sri Lankans were legally flown in to be trained to initially man the vessel but they suspected that there was surveillance on them and, therefore, attempted to escape using the Paga route in the Upper East Region.

Mr Oppong said the Sri Lankans were arrested before they could cross the border, while other immigrants on the vessel went into hiding in Tema.

He said there were 240 Sri Lankans waiting in Togo and Benin to lure people to join the vessel if they had succeeded with their plans.

Earlier at a meeting with Mr Anamoo, Mr Kelly had seen the need for the GPHA to be well equipped to counteract such activities.

Mr Anamoo said the GPHA would need about $10 million to put in place security systems to be able to monitor vessels some 45 nautical miles from the port.

The Security Co-ordinator at the Tema Port, Col Ben Agudogo, and some Canadian officials, including the Canadian High Commissioner in Ghana, Madam Trudy Kernighan, were part of the inspection team on board the detained vessel.

Source: Daily Graphic