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Mozambique busts child smuggling ring

04 Feb 2008

Police in Mozambique have confirmed that they have broken up a suspected human trafficking ring in the African nation.

Security personnel discovered about 40 children cramped into a number of trucks along the country’s main highway, an official told Reuters last week.

Smuggling networks are known to operate widely throughout Mozambique, often appearing to act with relative impunity given the country’s traditional tolerance of child labour in rural districts.

It is believed the children were en-route to the southern part of the country, whence they would then likely have been smuggled into South Africa – a major destination for children who fall victim to human traffickers.

The driver of one of the trucks stopped last week reportedly told police he was taking the children to schools in the capital Maputo and elsewhere.

“We don’t believe this theory because the children are hungry and weak, while they don’t have any proper documentation,” Feliciano Dique, a spokesman for the Sofala provincial police, told Reuters. “The driver does not even know their names.”

Mozambique’s government is planning to draft up tough new anti-smuggling laws that would increase prison sentences for traffickers, currently ranging from two to eight years.

But complacent social attitudes in the country are compounded by the growing commercial appeal of cheap male labour on farms and mines as well as high demand for young girls in brothels – meaning officials have so far struggled to make headway against the practice.

The UN estimates 1.5 million children are smuggled across international borders each year.


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