Thursday, November 01, 2007

Dutch police bust human trafficking operation

Human traffickers arranged fake marriages for underage Nigerian girls in Roman Catholic churches in Spain to avoid the questions civil authorities might have asked, the Spanish interior ministry has said.

The ministry said the suspects would charge girls 7,000 euro (?4,900) for a wedding to a European citizen while paying 3,000 euro (?2,100) to men with EU citizenship.

The Nigerian girls were taken to Spain from the Netherlands, to where they had been smuggled. After their marriages they were forced into prostitution to pay off the cost of the wedding plus the cost of bringing them to Europe, which the smugglers said was 31,000 euro (?21,700).

Spanish police last week made eleven arrests as part of a Dutch-co-ordinated crackdown in nine countries on the criminal ring. The ministry said a total of 32 people were arrested.

Spanish investigators had discovered that suspects were making frequent trips to the Netherlands and arranging marriage ceremonies in Spanish churches.

The girls would arrive at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport with fake Dutch passports and, because they were underage, stay at asylum seeker centres, having applied for asylum, the statement said. A few days later the girls would disappear from the centres, to be distributed around various EU countries where they were made to work as prostitutes.

The Spanish weddings were celebrated in Catholic churches using fake documents, thus avoiding face-to-face interviews with local authority representatives as required in civil marriage ceremonies, the statement said.

Raids in eight locations in Spain yielded Nigerian passports and birth certificates, false documents and Dutch baptism certificates. Investigators also found an invitation to the British Embassy in Spain, the statement said.

The operation, code-named Tulip, was triggered Wednesday by Dutch investigators who requested co-ordinated sweeps in Spain, the US, France, Germany, Belgium, Britain, Ireland and Nigeria, the statement said.

Spanish police raided eight locations in Madrid, Fuenlabrada, Torrejon de Ardoz and Seville.

The question is: the women that entered the Netherlands under false pretences, are they to be accepted by Dutch citizens now that it has become known that the marriages that made them "European citizens" are false?

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