NIS raises alarm over use of ECOWAS travel certificates by human traffickers

The Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) in Bayelsa, on Thursday raised the alarm on the increased use of ECOWAS Travel Certificates (ETC) by human traffickers to evade suspicion and arrest.

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

The Public Relations Officer for NIS in Bayelsa, Ibiemo Cookey, in a statement in Yenagoa, noted that the NIS, in Bayelsa, observed sudden increase in the rate at which young people obtained the ECOWAS travel certificate.

He said this necessitated a risk analysis and a checklist of the age group that was involved, as well as the reasons given for the travel and countries where the holders of the document frequently visited, before it attached additional security measure to issuance of the document.

He said 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.

The document, called the Suspicious Travel Interrogation Form, was zeroed down to any suspected case and has yielded results 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 diligence interrogation.

The PRO said in one of the cases, the trafficker, who was at large after the victim was stopped, prompted the alert system and gave the command the idea behind the increased 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 were being offered and to report any suspicious move to take their children outside the country for unconfirmed work and mouth watering plans.

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

The NIS also assured that all cases being investigated would be concluded before the New Year, for onward report to the Service Headquarters, Abuja.

He stated that the command had stepped up its strategies, while officers and men were warned to avoid being accomplices in anyway.

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