Mysterious Return of Benin 'Slave Ship'

Local governments are investigating the history of the Eritreno, trying to understand how the situation developed, and to determine if a slave ship with hundreds of children is indeed still on the seas.

Aid workers in Benin are interviewing the unaccompanied children who came off the Eritreno, and their counterparts in Cameroon are investigating earlier reports from authorities who had boarded the ship.

UNICEF is also maintaining an alert for the possibility there is a second ship carrying the slaves that might try to dock somewhere along the western African coast.

In any case, the aid organization says it did the right thing in raising the alarm. It said Benin's government had asked for its help, and "don't think there's any reason up front to question this notion," Ironsides said.

He said UNICEF would be quick to respond to any kind of announcement that there were children about to become slaves. "There's no record of crying wolf on this subject," he said.

"There are 200,000 children trafficked every year [in the area]," he said. "This story made absolute sense."

At this point, he is pessimistic there will a definite conclusion. "The concern at this stage is to understand what happened here. This is a matter of lessons learned and to bring this event to closure and increasing global focus on this very widespread and troublesome issue."

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