The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) says it has uncovered the new strategy used by human traffickers to evade security checks and avoid suspicion by using the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) Travel Certificate (ETC) as a travel document to transport their victims to any of the ECOWAS Member States to evade stringent checks at the airport and lower the level of suspicion.
The Bayelsa State command of the service disclosed that the Comptroller-General of the Immigration Service, Isa Jere Idris, has ensured a water-tight border control and management as a trafficking victim by the name of Miss Maureen Ekpe was rescued and released to the family, while the purported trafficker is at large.
The Command’s Public Relations Officer, Ibiemo Cookey, told journalists in a statement in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital on Thursday, that the command after noticing a sudden increase in the rate at which young people patronised the ECOWAS travel certificate, did a risk analysis and a checklist of the age group that goes for it, as well as the reasons given for the travel and countries where the holders of the document frequent before it attached additional security measure to the issuance of the document.
She said, “The Bayelsa State Command headed by Comptroller James Sunday, in a proactive and improved investigative strategy has uncovered the newly adopted ways used by human traffickers to evade security checks and avoid suspicion by using the ECOWAS Travel Certificate (ETC) as a travel document to transport their victims to any of the ECOWAS Member States 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.
“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 would zero down to any suspected case and it 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.
Cookey continued, “The Bayelsa Command will not rest on its oars until the syndicates are exposed and the only well justified, authentic trips without any link to Trafficking in Persons(TIPs) or Smuggling of Migrants(SOM) is established through the use of our interrogative process and vital intelligence tools to fight the menace.
“The Command, therefore, call on parents and guardians to desist from releasing their wards/children to people with hidden identities or motives, by verifying the kind of work they are to be employed for and report any suspicious movement to take their children outside the country for unconfirmed work with mouth-watering plans.
“The fight must be collective, to safeguard the lives and destinies of these young people. All cases being investigated will be concluded before New Year for an onward report to the Service Headquarters, Abuja, while the command steps up its strategies. Officers and men are warned to avoid being accomplices in any way.”