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NIS decries use of ECOWAS travel certificate by human traffickers

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Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) in Bayelsa State has raised the alarm over the increased use of ECOWAS Travel Certificate (ETC) by human traffickers to evade suspicion and arrest.

The NIS on Thursday, said it uncoveted the new strategy used by human traffickers to evade security checks and avoid suspicion by using the ETC as a travel document by their victims to any of the ECOWAS member states to evade stringent checks at the airports and lower the level of suspicion.

The NIS in Bayelsa also said that in line with the directive of the Comptroller General of Immigration Service, Isa Jere Idris, a trafficking victim by name, Miss Maureen Ekpe, was rescued and released to the family, while the alleged trafficker is at large.

The Public Relations Officer, NIS in Bayelsa, Ibiemo Cookey, in a statement in Yenagoa, said that the NIS in Bayelsa, after noticing sudden increase in the rate at which young people obtained the ECOWAS travel certificate, did a risk analysis and a checklist of the age group that goes for it, as well as the reasons given for the travel and countries where the holders of the document frequent, before it attached additional security measure to issuance of the document.

“The Bayelsa State Command headed by Comptroller James Sunday, in a proactive and improved investigative strategy has uncovered the newly adopted ways used by human traffickers to evade security checks and avoid suspicion by using the Ecowas Travel Certificate (ETC) as a travel document to transport their victims to any of the ECOWAS Member States to evade stringent checks at the airport and lower the level of suspicion in view of the limitation of countries the document is valid for travel .

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“The command noticed sudden increase in the rate at which young people patronised the ECOWAS Travel Certificate and did a risk analysis and a checklist of the age group that goes for it, the reasons given for the travel and countries where the holders of the document frequent, it was on this ground that the unit directly responsible for the issuance, ECOWAS Unit was tasked to add additional security document to the requirement, call the Suspicious Travel Interrogation Form which was zeroed down to any suspected case and has yielded result, so far.

“It has helped in rescuing two victims by denying them the facility and denying several others without genuine reasons for travels after due diligent interrogation, in one of the cases the trafficker who is at large after the victim was stopped prompted our alert system and gave the command the Idea behind the increase demand for the document against the conventional passport.

“The Bayelsa Command will not rest on its oars, until the syndicates are exposed and the only well justified, authentic trips without any link to Trafficking in Persons (TIPs) or Smuggling of Migrants (SOM) is established through the use of our interrogative process and vital intelligence tools to fight the menace,” Cookey said.

The NIS called on parents and guardians to desist from releasing their wards/children to people with hidden identities or motives, by verifying the kind of work their children are being offered and to report any suspicious move to take their children outside the country for unconfirmed work and mouth watering plans.

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The NIS explained that the fight agaist human trafficking must be collective to safeguard the lives and destinies of the young people.

The NIS also assured that all cases being investigated will be concluded before New Year for onward report to the Service Headquarters, Abuja, while the command steps up its strategies, officers and men are warned to avoid being accomplice in any way.

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