Benin: Child Trafficking Confirmed

A vessel that returned to Benin after a frantic search by officials off the coast of Africa was involved in child trafficking, officials confirmed toy.

Aid workers who interviewed the 43 children and young adults removed from the Nigerian-registered MV Etireno said those old enough to be aware of what was happening confirmed they had been headed to Gabon to work.

Five children told authorities a "financial transaction" took place before their departure, according to a joint statement issued by the government of Benin, UNICEF and the Terre des Hommes aid group. Eight said they were traveling with a person they did not know.

"It is confirmed that the adventure of the Etireno ship enters effectively in the category of a regional traffic in minors," the statement said. It stopped short, however, of saying the children were destined for slavery.

A Warranted Media Furor

The Etireno grabbed world headlines when Benin's government, citing officials in Cameroon, said a ship suspected of carrying child slaves had been turned away from two African ports and was headed back to Benin's commercial capital, Cotonou.

After days of searching, officials were confounded when a ferry marked as the Etireno pulled into port April 17 with a load of exhausted and frightened men, women and children — not the 100-plus children they had expected.