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Hard times now await human traffickers involved in trafficking Nigerians to Europe through Italy as the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) and the Security authorities in Italy have agreed to collaborate more effectively in curbing trafficking of human beings from Nigeria to Italy.

This was the outcome of the high powered strategic meetings held in Italy between a delegation from NAPTIP led by the Director-General, Julie Okah-Donli and officials of various Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) of Italy. The NAPTIP delegation was made up of Investigators and Prosecutors. The delegationmet with the Head of the Italian Anti-Mafia and Terrorism department; officials of the Public Safety Department; the Italian Police; the Prosecutors of Palermo and Catania Sicily, handlingtrafficking and smuggling in migrants issues and investigations amongst others.

The meetings were sequel to the plans of NAPTIP to deepen its partnership with authorities of destination countries and jointly drawing a road map to crumbling the businesses of those who traffic or smuggle Nigerians to Europe where they are exposed to lives of misery. The meetings were also aimed at discussing the possibilities of using the criminal evidences in Italy to prosecute criminal gangs of Nigerian origin when they are brought back home.

One of the resolutions was the proper utilisation of all existing global, mutual or bilateral conventions and protocols on combating trafficking in persons (TIP) in curbing further trafficking of young persons from Nigeria to Italy.

Speaking at the various meetings, Okah-Donlicalled for better partnership between NAPTIP and the Italian security forces in the arrest and prosecution of perpetrators of the crime of trafficking in persons. She stressed the need for the Italian authorities and those of other European countries to show more commitment in the fight against human trafficking by arresting and prosecuting their own nationals involved in trafficking. ‘’We are trying our best in prosecuting our own people, but the fight looks one sided as we do not hear much of the prosecution of your own people who are involved. Nigerians cannot successfully exploit the victims of trafficking here without effective connivance and collaboration from your people’’, she said.

She expressed sadness over the frequent deaths on the MediterraneanSea and called for an enquiry into the frequency of the incidences along the Mediterranean region.

While calling for joint operations and investigations by operatives in Nigeria and Italy, she requested for the deployment of NAPTIP operatives to select Italian Airports, Sea and Border posts to help in identification and profiling of Nigerian Victims and traffickers and to ensure that Nigerian victims were not treated like common criminals when intercepted.

The Director-General also called on the Italian Departments and Agencies involved in Anti-Trafficking issuesto involve the Nigerian Embassy more in their activities especially in the area of consular assistance to deserving victims. She also spoke of the need for vigorous prosecution and aggressive campaigns against TIP.

During discussions, the Italians raised the issue of protection for threatened family members of rescued victims cooperatingwith them in their investigations by traffickers and their Associates in Nigeria. The DG however, promised that NAPTIP willoffer help, support and protection whenever such requests werereceived.

Other Issues discussed at the meetings included: expansion of cooperation; information sharing in a timely and open manner; experience exchanges; disclosures on asset of criminal gangs involved in human trafficking; equal arrest of both local and Nigerian traffickers and collaborators; effective cooperation based on signed MOUs, Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA), Extradition Treaty and exchange ofPrisoners; humane and protective handling of victims of trafficking; seizure and legal confiscation of assets of traffickers abroad and theirforfeiture to the victims of traffickingtrust fund.Other matters discussed were the role of the United Kingdom’s National Criminal Agency (NCA) in facilitating cooperation and information exchanges as well as operational support for the NAPTIP- Italian Security authorities’ relations.

There was also a trilateral technical panel by Italy-United Kingdom-Nigeria at the Office for Coordination and Planning of the Police ForcesSala Europa, Ministry of Interior where members of the delegation from the three countries spoke on different issuesof cooperation in the fight against human trafficking.The meeting had in attendance officials from International Relations Services, Criminal Police CentralDirectorate, and the Anti-crime Central Directorate of the Italian Police, NAPTIP delegation and the British delegation.

Josiah Emerole

Head, Press and Public Relations (NAPTIP)

Operatives of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) are to work at the Heathrow and Gatwick Airports in London in a joint operation with the security authorities of the United Kingdom. This joint operation which will be for a short period will see the operatives of NAPTIP working side by side with the UK Border Force and other relevant Agencies at the two gateways into the United Kingdom. This is the outcome of some high level meetings in London between the Director-General of NAPTIP, Julie Okah-Donli and officials of the Home Office of the United Kingdom.

As part of her partnership drive and in furtherance of her vision towards making NAPTIP a big player in counter trafficking initiatives across the globe, the Director-General has been engaging various partners within and outside Nigeria,seeking ways of further improving the operations of the Agency and the early rescueof Nigerian Potential Victims of Trafficking in Person (PVoTs) their captors.

During her meeting with the officials of the Home Office in London, the authorities approved the joint operations at the two airports aimed atrandomly profiling passengers with a view to identifying PVoTs and suspected traffickers. The gesture is a result of the NAPTIP Boss’ persistence in promoting mutual respect and liaison amongst law enforcement agencies across the globe in the fight against human trafficking.

This milestonewill improve mutual sharing of experience, intelligence and expertise between Nigeria and the United Kingdom based on the fact that Nigerian PVoTs could be better identified by Nigerians after thorough assessment of indicators of trafficking.

At the various meetings held at the Home Office, the Director-General engaged with the Senior Officials of the Home Office led by the Manager, Dave Pennant;Investigation and Prosecution team, officials of the UK National Crime Agency (NCA) ModernSlavery and Human Trafficking Unit Team, officials of theModern Slavery Unit, Immigrations, and the UK Border Force. The issues addressed at these meetings included illegal migration, victims care and prosecution of trafficking suspects.

In her presentation, Okah-Donli who spoke on the need for better collaboration by various countries and the urgent need for joint operations in the fight against human trafficking and illegal migration,stressed the relevance of NAPTIP’s presence at all Borders and Airports to effectively profilePVoTs and traffickers for necessary actionsas other sister law enforcement agencies at such points are overwhelmed with their own areas of mandate and have little or no time to deal with other issues including identification of PVoTs and human traffickers.

She subsequently emphasised the need to involve operatives of NAPTIP who have also been trained by the UK authorities to jointlywork with the UK Border Force at the two Airports.

Commending the UK authorities for the gesture, Okah-Donli said she will ensure that the operation yields the desired results which would market such collaborative effort to other partnering countries. She however, warned traffickers and their collaborators to look for better businesses outside of trafficking, stressing, “If we miss you here in Nigeria at departure, we will not miss you as you arrive your destination”.

Josiah Emerole

Head, Press and Public Relations (NAPTIP)

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