By Ruth Tene Natsa, Abuja
Hard times now await human traffickers involved in trafficking Nigerians to Europe through Italy.
This is as the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) and the Security authorities in Italy have agreed to collaborate more effectively in curbing trafficking of human beings from Nigeria to Italy.
A statement by NAPTIP head of Press and Public Relations, Josiah Emerole, yesterday, said the collaboration was the outcome of the high powered strategic meetings held in Italy between a delegation from NAPTIP led by the director-general, Julie Okah-Donli and officials of various Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) of Italy.
The statement revealed that the meetings were sequel to the plans of NAPTIP to deepen its partnership with authorities of destination countries and jointly drawing a road map to crumbling the businesses of those who traffic or smuggle Nigerians to Europe where they are exposed to lives of misery.
It added that the meetings were also aimed at discussing the possibilities of using the criminal evidences in Italy to prosecute criminal gangs of Nigerian origin when they are brought back home.
One of the resolutions was the proper utilisation of all existing global, mutual or bilateral conventions and protocols on combating trafficking in persons (TIP) in curbing further trafficking of young persons from Nigeria to Italy.
Speaking at the meetings, Okah-Donli called for better partnership between NAPTIP and the Italian security forces in the arrest and prosecution of perpetrators of the crime of trafficking in persons.
She stressed the need for the Italian authorities and those of other European countries to show more commitment in the fight against human trafficking by arresting and prosecuting their own nationals involved in trafficking.
“We are trying our best in prosecuting our own people, but the fight looks one sided as we do not hear much of the prosecution of your own people who are involved. Nigerians cannot successfully exploit the victims of trafficking here without effective connivance and collaboration from your people,’’ he said.
She expressed sadness over the frequent deaths on the Mediterranean Sea and called for an inquiry into the frequency of the incidences along the Mediterranean region.
While calling for joint operations and investigations by operatives in Nigeria and Italy, she requested for the deployment of NAPTIP operatives to select Italian Airports, Sea and Border posts to help in identification and profiling of Nigerian Victims and traffickers and to ensure that Nigerian victims were not treated like common criminals when intercepted.
The Director-General also called on the Italian Departments and Agencies involved in Anti-Trafficking issues to involve the Nigerian Embassy more in their activities especially in the area of consular assistance to deserving victims. She also spoke of the need for vigorous prosecution and aggressive campaigns against TIP.
During discussions, the Italians raised the issue of protection for threatened family members of rescued victims cooperating with them in their investigations by traffickers and their Associates in Nigeria. The DG however, promised that NAPTIP will offer help, support and protection whenever such requests were received.
Other Issues discussed at the meetings included: expansion of cooperation; information sharing in a timely and open manner; experience exchanges; disclosures on asset of criminal gangs involved in human trafficking; equal arrest of both local and Nigerian traffickers and collaborators; effective cooperation based on signed MOUs, Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA), Extradition Treaty and exchange of Prisoners; humane and protective handling of victims of trafficking; seizure and legal confiscation of assets of traffickers abroad and their forfeiture to the victims of trafficking trust fund. Other matters discussed were the role of the United Kingdom’s National Criminal Agency (NCA) in facilitating cooperation and information exchanges as well as operational support for the NAPTIP- Italian Security authorities’ relations.
There was also a trilateral technical panel by Italy-United Kingdom-Nigeria at the Office for Coordination and Planning of the Police Forces Sala Europa, Ministry of Interior where members of the delegation from the three countries spoke on different issues of cooperation in the fight against human trafficking. The meeting had in attendance officials from International Relations Services, Criminal Police Central Directorate, and the Anti-crime Central Directorate of the Italian Police, NAPTIP delegation and the British delegation.
The NAPTIP delegation was made up of Investigators and Prosecutors. The delegation met with the Head of the Italian Anti-Mafia and Terrorism department; officials of the Public Safety Department; the Italian Police; the Prosecutors of Palermo and Catania Sicily, handling trafficking and smuggling in migrants issues and investigations amongst others.
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