17 National Police officers work in West Africa to collaborate with gendarmeries and institutions in dismantling trafficking networks and prevention
“Working in the countries of origin is fundamental to dismantle the trafficking mafias. The exploitation of people, whether for sex, labor or organ trafficking, is one of the worst crimes and the National Police has protocols and reference mechanisms to share with the world,” explains Rafael Ríos, police inspector and coordinator of the A-TIPSOM Nigeria project, which, financed by the European Union, mobilizes members of our security forces to work with their counterparts in Nigeria.
Rios sums up the achievements of a flagship anti-trafficking project after four years of implementation: “we have worked hand in hand in prevention, so that potential victims in rural or disadvantaged areas can identify the mafias’ recruitment mechanisms; we have rehabilitated 17 victim care centers in the country -a fundamental protection so that when they are released they do not fall into a new victimization-, we have promoted legislative measures and protocols so that all the actors involved (for example immigration, security and equality institutions) are coordinated, and we have collaborated with training and technical means that have substantially increased the number of traffickers arrested and convicted”.
Ríos also highlights the important return that this type of project has for Europe in terms of bringing administrations closer together: “now any request for information issued by countries such as Spain, France, Holland or Italy is dealt with by the Nigerian authorities much more efficiently”, which makes it possible to tackle the problem of trafficking at source and destination.
A recent study carried out by the project identified cultural, sports and religious visits as tactics increasingly used by human traffickers. The police have developed numerous prevention activities in the country based on the use of social networks, both to help potential victims identify these lures and to identify the perpetrators.
“When our project started, we found more than 2,000 people in the desert, in deplorable conditions, victims of trafficking networks. This year there have only been 20, which gives us the strength to continue cooperating until no more people are victims of trafficking, whether for sexual exploitation, labor or begging,” says Fernando Guerrero, a national police officer who arrived in the country almost four years ago to coordinate the European ECI-Niger project. This project, which involves four National Police officers, aims to combat criminal networks in Niger through the creation of a joint investigation team (JIT) within the Central Service for the Fight against Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime (SCLCT/CTO).
Guerrero points out that one of the most important challenges is to overcome the cultural taboos that often underpin trafficking: “one of our latest interventions with the Nigerian national police was aimed at breaking up groups of marabouts who, in the guise of so-called Koranic schools, were forcing children to beg in the streets. Guerrero points out that they are currently focusing on improving victim care in police stations: “we want to guarantee a protected legal right such as human dignity”.
From the International Cooperation Division, the actions promoted both at bilateral and multilateral level through the participation of National Police in these international projects developed in the countries of origin are considered fundamental at a strategic level in the fight against trafficking in human beings. All this will allow us to create an atmosphere of mutual trust with their authorities by working together on a daily basis for the same purpose, in addition to knowing and understanding each country’s own unique problems.
The fight against trafficking is a priority within the competencies assigned to the National Police, in addition to being a complex criminal activity with a clear international framework, which we must face therefore from a perspective of international police cooperation covering all levels, starting with those countries. In this context, the National Police has deployed up to 17 national police officers in international projects in West African countries financed by EU funds, and we want to continue promoting our presence and participation through this cooperation strategy.
“The National Police are two of the Spanish institutions most committed to international cooperation. They work hand in hand with gendarmeries, police and justice institutions of other countries in areas such as police investigation, the fight against organized crime, the dismantling of trafficking networks and migrants or the protection of public spaces against terrorist attacks. At FIIAPP we are convinced that security and peace are pillars for development and we work to mobilize the public talent of Spanish institutions in this direction,” explains Lourdes Sartorius, Deputy Director of Security, Peace and Development at FIIAPP. 25 police officers are currently deployed with FIIAPP around the world, but many more are involved in short-term missions for specific training or workshops.