Interpol on Monday announced that a major operation conducted in Sudan led to the rescue of nearly 100 victims of human trafficking.
Interpol, in conjunction with around 200 Sudanese policemen, conducted Operation Sawiyan, in a week-long crackdown on criminal networks in and around the capital of Khartoum.
The operation rescued 94 people, of which 85 were minors.
The victims came from countries such as Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Niger, Sudan and South Sudan, Interpol’s executive director of police services Tim Morris told Reuters.
Many of the victims are believed to have fallen into the hands of traffickers while trying to get to Europe.
“We believe that they were transiting through Sudan and then kidnapped en route and diverted into these forced labor activities,” Morris said.
According to police, children as young as 10 were found handling dangerous chemicals in open-air gold mines east of Khartoum. Others were forced to beg in the city.
Sudan is a source and transit country for migrants from Africa wanting to reach Europe via Libya and Mediterranean, a spokesperson for the United Nations Organization for Migration (IOM) said.
Especially at risk of exploitation, sexual and physical violence are children separated from their parents or travelling alone.
“In many cases these children are exposed to forced unpaid labor including street begging, gold mining, street vending, agriculture and other hazardous working conditions with limited access to education, protection and health services,” she added.
The IOM and its partners are providing the children rescued during Operation Sawiyan with food and healthcare. They will at a later stage be asked more about where and how they were trafficked.
Aside from the 94 victims rescued, police also arrested 14 suspected traffickers and seized $20 000, which they believe included ransom money paid by one victim’s family for his release.