The Nigeria Immigration Service, Bayelsa State Command, claimed on Thursday that it had uncovered ‘new methods’ used by suspected human traffickers to traffick underage girls.
In a statement by the state Comptroller, Mr Sunday James, the command however cited the ECOWAS Travel Certificate as one of the means adopted by the human traffickers in their illicit business.
James claimed that the perpetrators use the ECOWAS travel document “to evade security checks and avoid suspicion and transport their victims to any of the regional body’s member states.”
He said, “A victim by the name of Miss Maureen Ekpe was stopped and denied facility after a thorough investigation, while the purported trafficker is at large, the victim was released to her family with a warning.”
According to him, the suspected human traffickers also use the same travel paper “to evade stringent checks at the airport and lower the level of suspicion in view of the limitation of countries the document is valid for travel.”
James further said, “The Command noticed a sudden increase in the rate at which young people patronised the ECOWAS Travel Certificate and did a risk analysis and a checklist of the age group that goes for it, the reasons given for the travel and countries where the holders of the document frequent.
“It was on this ground that the unit directly responsible for the issuance, ECOWAS Unit, was tasked to add an additional security document to the requirement, call the Suspicious Travel Interrogation Form which was zero down to any suspected case and has yielded results.
“So far it has helped in rescuing two victims by denying them the facility and denying several others without genuine reasons after due diligent interrogation.
“In one of the cases the trafficker, who is at large after the victim was stopped, prompted our alert system and gave the command the Idea behind the increasing demand for the document against the conventional passport.”
James said the state NIS command would not relent until the syndicates were exposed, stressing that justified trips without any link to Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants are established through the use of interrogative process and vital intelligence tools to fight the menace.
While urging that the fight was collective, the state NIS Comptroller called on parents and guardians not to release their children and wards to people with hidden identities and motives.