A retried Nigerian American Police officer, Samuel Balogun narrated how he burst a human trafficking syndicate that specialized in using minors for prostitution.
“My biggest accomplishment was bursting a human trafficking crime,” Balogun said.
Giving details of how he executed the task, the dark skinned retired police officer said: “ There was a guy that was using minors for prostitution on the internet. I have an accent and when I speak people know I am an African. So, I had to go undercover and had to call the guy on the internet. I said ‘ hey! what is going on, I am in town. I am a truck driver and I want some girls.’ I asked how old? He said the younger they are, the more money. I said about 15 to 16 years. He said ok. I asked how many he could bring and he replied two. He said which hotel was I and I gave the name to him. He told me to hang up and he called back the hotel. He subsequently called me and asked if I was there and I said yes. He said he would be there in 20 minutes.
“We were waiting for him to come but he was smart too. He dropped the girls down the street and made them walk to the room. The girls asked how much I was ready to pay and wanted to take off their clothes but I said not yet. In the next room were officers listening to our conversation. When I make a signal, that means it is time for them to come in. but before you make the signal, you have to make sure they have mentioned the price, they have given the reason why they were there, so it doesn’t look like you are entrapping them. When I made the signal, the officers burst in and arrested everybody including me.
Thereafter, Balogun said the police processed the girls and after that, “they said look, you are minors and we know somebody is pushing you to do this. Now we don’t want to arrest you but tell us how to get to the boss. The girls cooperated and made as if they were leaving. When the man pulled up to pick them up, and that was how we arrested him. That stopped a lot of those crimes.”
Balogun said he was in Nigeria to bring his wealth of experience to bear on the disturbing security situation in the country. “ I am trying to bring back my experience as a police officer in the states to Nigeria. When you look at the #endsars period, the performance of the police was something that hurt my feelings. How can we make it better? How can we make the police job something that people will look with respect and want to join?”
He hinted that his security firm is involved in training not only police officers but “ I also train private security companies. I am in touch with a lot of private security companies in Nigeria. There is another concept which Nigeria is embracing right now.
“It is called community policing. In the states it is called neighbourhood policing or community policing. It works in a way that in every street, there would be a police officer that lives in that neighbourhood. You get to know the people and the people know you. In some apartments, they will give you a discount just for the police officer to be there because they know once a police officer is living there, the police car is outside and the crime level will reduce. People are more likely to talk to that officer because they know him. They are more able to tell him’ hey we know who committed that crime.’ For every crime, you need people to tell you what happened. You can have all the gadgets but if people are not talking, you can’t solve the crime.”
He further said: “I am training police officers, security companies and executive protection. What my security company is doing is to free the police officers from attachment to chiefs, politicians and all that. We train civilians to represent those officers so that they can go back to the street and do their normal jobs. We have what we call executive protection/training. We have people that follow the president. We can train you on how to be efficient and sometimes using less force, description tactics.”
Further expatiating on what his security firm does, the soft spoken officer said: “What my company is trying to do is to bring people to the table. We are trying to train companies that there is a better way of security where we can teach you how to defend yourself, how to prepare for any emergency, and how to use less force. I have a guy, a navy seal that worked for the United States of America. You will be amazed about what he can do. He can disarm you in a minute even when you come with AK 47. I am also bringing Hostage Negotiation, people that can talk to you when ransom has to be paid. In the US, we call it Hostage Negotiation. They can talk to these people, and know their psyche. It is a full package. When you come to my firm, you can see the whole spectrum and choose.”
As a vastly travelled person, Blagun said: “I travel a lot and in all the African nations is where you see officers with AK 47. They said it is more intimidating. Criminals use AK 47 in America too but we still don’t carry it. Is that the right weapon for the police officers, I leave that question open. “
On the attitude of the Nigerian authorities his plans, he said: “I have talked to a lot of people in higher positions. In some places I don’t want to mention, I have got good responses. My firm has done some things with certain private firms and the police. I have dealt with some highly placed security firms. So, this is not my first time here. We are looking at having training in Sheraton around July/August this year. It is going to be a big one. I am bringing a retired FBI agent, a navy seal, a retired marine , myself and may be two other officers.
“This is my country, I am proud of it. I am sad sometimes when you look at the security aspect of it. With my experience, I am trying to make it a better place. It has always been my passion to come back home. I am retired and don’t really need to work again. My benefits are okay untill I die. But why die with all this experience when I can pass it to the next person.”
IOM, UNHCR: Latest Caribbean shipwreck tragedy underscores need for safe pathways
Geneva – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency are deeply saddened by the latest loss of at least two lives after a boat capsized off Venezuela’s shores on Thursday 22 April.
According to local authorities, at least 24 people including several children are believed to have been on board the boat heading towards the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago. Seven people were rescued by commercial Venezuelan vessels, and two bodies have so far been recovered, while rescue operations are ongoing to find other survivors among the 15 Venezuelans that are still unaccounted for according to authorities.
“The waters of the Caribbean Sea continue to claim the lives of Venezuelans,” said Eduardo Stein, Joint Special Representative of UNHCR and IOM for Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants. “As the conditions in the country continue to deteriorate – all worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic – people continue to undertake life-threatening journeys.”
This is the latest of several incidents involving the capsizing of boats carrying Venezuelan refugees and migrants towards Caribbean islands, the most recent reported near the Venezuelan city of Guiria in December last year.
With land and maritime borders still closed to limit COVID-19 transmission, these journeys take place mainly through irregular routes, heightening the dangers as well as health and protection risks.
“Shipwrecks, tragic deaths at border crossings and further suffering are avoidable, but only if immediate and concerted international action is mobilized to find pragmatic solutions that put saving lives and protecting human rights at the forefront of any response,” added Stein.
“The establishment of regular and safe pathways, including through humanitarian visas and family reunification, as well as the implementation of protection-sensitive entry systems and adequate reception mechanisms, can prevent the use of irregular routes, smuggling and trafficking.”
UNHCR and IOM reiterate their readiness to lend support and technical expertise in exploring practical solutions to provide regular pathways that also take into account COVID-19 prevention measures. UNHCR and IOM, as co-leaders of the Interagency Coordination Platform for refugees and migrants from Venezuela (R4V), work with at least 24 other partners and governments across the Caribbean to meet the needs of refugees and migrants in the sub-region.
There are over 5 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants around the world, 200,000 of whom are estimated to be hosted in the Caribbean.
Searching for closure: New study examines challenges facing families of missing migrants in the UK
Berlin – When a person goes missing, the existing laws, procedures and inter-state cooperation enable families to make the necessary arrangements and reach closure about the loss of their loved ones.
A new report from the International Organization of Migration (IOM)’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre and Missing Migrants Project shows this is not the case for people across the United Kingdom who have missing migrant relatives.
“The families who participated in the research in the UK are some of the tens of thousands of people living worldwide with the pain of not knowing the fate of their loved ones who went missing or died during migration journeys,” said Frank Laczko, Director of IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC) in Berlin.
Over the past two years, IOM GMDAC has carried out qualitative research funded by Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs with families searching for missing migrants in several countries. The twin aims of the research are to amplify the voices of the families of missing migrants and develop a series of recommendations to drive action to support them.
This new report shows that cases of missing migrants in the UK extend far beyond the English Channel.
Nearly 300 people are known to have died since 1999 along the northern coast of France, Belgium and the Netherlands, in the English Channel or shortly after crossing into the United Kingdom, according to records collected by IOM’s Missing Migrants Project and the Institute of Race Relations. But the number of missing migrants en route to the UK is likely to be much higher. Many of the families involved in the research did not know the whereabouts or fate of their relatives in the Mediterranean Sea crossing and elsewhere.
“Besides the emotional toll, we know that the lives of people related to missing migrants may be forever marked by the many psychosocial, legal and financial impacts,” said Dipti Pardeshi, Chief of Mission of IOM in the UK.
“When I came here… I would cry every morning… I was crying over my loss and also because the future was uncertain then. I did not know what was going to happen,” said Emeka, a Nigerian woman living in the UK who is looking for her husband.
“I didn’t know if I would get residence here, or if I was going to be deported. That was what I was facing then apart from the loss of family,” she continued.
With the exception of the tracing service offered by the British Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in the United Kingdom there are no agencies or policies specifically dedicated to help report, locate or identify cases involving migrants who went missing while in transit to the country. As a result, families primarily seek information about the missing and rely on support from informal channels and networks, members of the diaspora abroad, and community-based associations.
The research, carried out in collaboration with Dr. Samuel Okyere at the University of Bristol and IOM UK, found that families of missing migrants in the UK may be migrants themselves with fears that searching for their loved ones could lead to being prosecuted due to their uncertain immigration status.
IOM calls for action in the UK, and elsewhere, to support these families. Objective 8 of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) specifically calls on states to identify those who have died or gone missing, and to facilitate communication with affected families. The report includes 10 recommendations for how families of missing migrants in the UK can be better supported to trace their relatives and to cope with the impacts of loss.
Find the new report “Families of Missing Migrants: Their Search for Answers, the Impacts of Loss and Recommendations for Improved Support ” here.
“Living Without Them – Stories of families left behind” is a four-part podcast series produced by IOM about the research project with families of missing migrants. Listen to the third episode about the stories of families of missing migrants in the UK here.
IOM’s Emergency Director in Mozambique: Communities uprooted by recent violence in Palma require greater support
Pemba – Nearly 30,500 people displaced by recent violence in northern Mozambique face increased hardship as the humanitarian situation intensifies across Cabo Delgado province. Funds are urgently needed to respond to the emergency, which has displaced nearly 700,000 since the onset of violence in October 2017.
IOM’s Director of Operations and Emergencies, Jeff Labovitz, visited Mozambique this week to express condolences to the families of those who lost loved ones in the recent attacks in Palma, and solidarity with displaced and affected communities in Cabo Delgado.
“Cabo Delgado has seen unprecedented, rapidly increasing levels of displacement over the past year. Displaced people are vulnerable and in need of urgent and comprehensive humanitarian assistance,” said Labovitz.
“IOM is working with UN and non-governmental partners and supports the Government of Mozambique to alleviate the suffering of people who’ve been suddenly driven from their homes and communities.”
Labovitz met with humanitarian partners and government representatives, including from ministries and local authorities in the capital, Maputo, and in Cabo Delgado. He also visited resettlement sites in Metuge District and the Transit Site in Pemba, which hosts people recently displaced from Palma.
He spoke with host families and with displaced people. Many expressed their desire to move to a safer place where they could resettle.
At the Transit Centre Labovitz spoke with Rabia, a woman displaced from Palma who recounted her harrowing experience:
“My husband was killed, but my two children and I survived. We moved between locations for several days without food or money. We made our way to Afungi and from there we boarded a flight to Pemba.”
“I am going to persevere, but the situation is very difficult. I don’t know how I’m going to provide for my children without a space to live or equipment to start farming,” she added.
IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) continues to record, on a daily basis, increased numbers of people displaced from Palma to safer areas. Several days in the last month have seen more than 1,000 arrivals per day. Of the displaced, 75 per cent are women and children – including pregnant women and unaccompanied children – and more than 1,000 of the total have been elderly.
“Remarkably the communities of Cabo Delgado – who themselves have increasing humanitarian needs – host the vast majority of displaced individuals. Support from the international community is needed to relieve some of this pressure and focus more attention and support,” continued Labovitz.
He commended the government’s provision of land for displaced families in resettlement sites, which enable families to cultivate land and restart their lives. IOM-supported efforts to establish these sites aim to ensure more dignified living conditions for residents.
IOM is working together with humanitarian partners to carry out multi-sectoral assessments in order to guide the delivery of humanitarian supplies, including in hard-to-reach areas. The situation in Cabo Delgado remains critical, especially in areas that, due to the security situation, are inaccessible to humanitarian actors.
“Sadly, calls for greater funding for this emergency have gone largely unmet. We need to come together to ensure that people have access to water and sanitation, shelter and food and are protected from gender-based violence and other forms of abuse,” Labovitz said.
IOM continues to provide support to people displaced from Cabo Delgado through the provision of psychosocial support, protection assistance, support and referrals for health services, shelter and non-food items, camp coordination and camp management. The Organization is also tracking populations and their needs through DTM to inform the response. Most recent displacement figures are available here.
In 2021, IOM requires USD 58 million to support emergency and post crisis efforts in Mozambique under IOM Mozambique Crisis Response Plan, which includes USD 21.7 million to respond to immediate lifesaving humanitarian needs in northern Mozambique through this year’s Humanitarian Response Plan.
IOM’s Global Crisis Response Platform provides an overview of IOM’s plans and funding requirements to respond to the evolving needs and aspirations of those impacted by, or at risk of, crisis and displacement in 2021 and beyond.
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