21 children rescued from South Africa, traffic scheme operated by football agent

21 children rescued from South Africa, traffic scheme operated by football agent

- Some minors between the ages of 9 and 16 have been rescued fro South Africa 

- They were lured by a trafficker into believing that they were going to train as footballers 

- They arrived back home on December 15, 2015 

- Their visas had expired which made them stranded and had to be rescued by the South African Department of Social Development who sent them to a shelter in Pretoria

- The children are being kept in a shelter to go through a rehabilitation process to help them recover from the trauma to be taken back to their families

Ms Victoria Natsu, the Acting Head of the Human Trafficking Secretariat, has told newsmen in Accra that 21 children aged between 9 and 16 who are suspected to have been trafficked from Ghana to South Africa have been repatriated.

A trafficker, whose name is being withheld, is currently helping the police in their investigations.

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He got the consent of the parents of the children, mainly from communities in the Sefwi area in the Western Region, under the guise of training them in South Africa to be sent to European countries and America to play football.

The victims of the scheme who are all minors, are males, who were later abandoned by their trafficker. They arrived in Ghana on December 15, 2015.

The trafficker who had been given a parcel of land to set up a football academy by a chief in one of the communities was able to convince the parents and guardians as well as some chiefs at a durbar mounted for him

He also used radio stations in the communities to promote his shady scheme and was therefore able to lure unsuspecting victims to pay huge sums of money to send the children to South Africa.

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Some parents were even reported to have sold their land and cocoa farms to fund their children’s travel cost.

According to Mrs Natsu, the visas issued to the children expired which made them stranded and had to be rescued by the South African Department of Social Development who sent them to a shelter in Pretoria when they got wind of their plight.

She said her office’s attention was drawn when Ghana’s High Commission in Pretoria requested the MOGCSP and National Security to investigate the trafficking scheme involving the 21 minors on July 30, 2015.

With support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the International Organisation of Migration (IOM), the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of the Ghana Police Service, the MOGCSP and other key stakeholders, the children were repatriated back to Ghana.

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Meanwhile, the children have been kept in a shelter to go through a rehabilitation process to help them recover from the trauma and would be taken back to their families at the appropriate time.

She added that district social development officers in the various communities would then take over the reintegration of the children to ensure that they were enrolled in schools.

Mrs Natsu however, reminded Ghanaians to be on the lookout for such scams. “There is no shortcut in the scheme of things and therefore we must all be guided by what has happened to these children and their parents and learn lessons from it,” she added.

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