Meeting Victims of Human Trafficking
It started as a day like any other but as is the case in Counter Human Trafficking activities, it certainly was one we could not have imagined what was to transpire. On our schedule we had a trip to the International airport to meet two victims from Saudi Arabia. We arrived to find that the plane had just landed but after a period of waiting and most passengers had come out, we decided it was time to try to call one of them. We had ‘Jackie’s’ name on a board, however, the ‘board’ on this occasion was the 42 page, A4 size “Training Manual” I designed in 2008, we refer to it as “Madam Lolo” (on a sheet of paper, taped on to the Manual, we just wrote the name of one of the two women we expected). In simple pictorial format the Training Manual details the trafficking of a 12-year-old girl to a brothel-cum-bar who is exposed to a variety of severe hardships and sexual exploitation which finally ends in her death due to AIDS, having undergone several abortions by the doctor whom the ‘Madam’ calls in to carry out the procedure/s.
Planning our next move
Having waited so long we sat down in an airport café to sit and have some drinks and call ‘Jackie’ That in itself was a struggle as she was not picking her phone but we had an alternative number and she answered it telling us that she lacked an ‘exit visa’ and was turned back at Riyadh International airport on the previous evening. As all this was happening, I spotted a long line of very young girls (at least eleven of them) come out of a Nissan van and with a small suitcase each they made a line heading in the direction of where we had just left, to ‘Saudi Airlines’ They were followed at the rear by a Madam in full Muslim dress. With Mutuku opposite me, I said: “look quickly, that trail of young girls is being trafficked” I could see his face ‘fall’ and my mind went back to another time when I was on my way home through Abu Dhabi direct to Dublin. I spotted a group of 14 very young pretty Ethiopian and Eritrean girls in the transit lounge, I knew they were being ‘trafficked’. An inner voice reminded me “Mary, you are starting your holidays now – just leave them” But another stronger, inner voice said ‘No, engage with them’ which I did and in very faltering English found that they were bound for Abu Dhabi for work, one managed to say “Work, Yes, we go work” I knew what fate awaited them and I felt very sad and helpless.
Take Courage Always
Today, with that trail of young girls on their way to an unknown fate, I stripped off the A4 page bearing the name of ‘Jackie’ and walked swiftly in their direction – carrying the “Madam Lolo” story. They had just reached the health scan checking for their Covid-19 certs. I asked one of them which county are you going to? Her reply was simple – just one word ‘Saudi’ which spoke volumes to me. I just placed the manual in her hands and said; ‘read this’ Some of the worst, most horrific and violent episodes come out of victims to Saudi – such has been my experience over 15 years. We have some photos of gross mutilations, burns e.g., placing a hot iron on a girl’s arm just because she burned the ‘tail’ of a man’s shirt and this was done by a woman – it amounts to gross inhumanity and a level of cruelty which defies imagination. As I walked a few meters away from them I just turned around and the Muslim lady was glaring hard back at me, I turned around and came back to our table at the café. Since beginning this work 15 years ago, I know that nothing is ever lost, no effort is too big in my passion to work Against HT whenever or wherever I meet it. In the Preface to a Strategic Plan of 2008, I wrote: “my mission is to sow ‘seeds’ very small seeds let God’s Spirit wing them where God’s Spirit wills” I have placed all my efforts and services in the hands of the Almighty who can and does Shepherd His people despite the awful greed of traffickers who reap so much wealth that it can finance the entire operations of Al Shabbab or Boko Haram.
Despite the fact that we spent over 3 hours going to the airport all was not lost, on the way back as we chatted, we also conceived of an idea to do some ‘Research’ around this trafficking of young girls to Saudi and other Gulf States. In tandem with that idea and also very much related to it, that evening, Mutuku received a call at his home. It came from a deputy police Officer Commanding Station (OCS) whom he parted company with just two weeks earlier. In the first week of February, 2021 Mutuku and George Matheka completed phase 2 of the ‘Training of Trainers’ (ToT) for 30 members of Kangemi Parish, Nairobi. The group included the deputy OCS and a female police Officer and they also received their certificates as people qualified to present the whole gamut of Human Trafficking to any group of people who wished to engage with them.
Serious Criminal Activity
‘Peter’ this deputy Police Officer Commanding Station (OCS) had an immediate urgent problem. It was 11pm and one hour after curfew, he had just arrested the driver of a Nissan van carrying one adult Muslim lady and 14 young girls (as verified by their passports). Each one held a small weekend case – ‘they look fearful and very terrified’ he explained to Mutuku. In addition, this Muslim lady carried 14 passports in an envelope inside her jacket pocket, there was no doubt she was dealing with an immediate and very serious crime – there was no time to lose. Mutuku gave him the name and phone number of the “Transnational Organized Crime Unit” (TOCU) Officer who could help him immediately. It worked as a crime novel would describe it and when ‘Peter’ came to see us at our office some days later, he was beaming with pride, “this incident has given me more satisfaction than all the other crime cases I have dealt with in my 15 years as a Police officer” We Congratulated him again and he continued “Now I know that this is the kind of crime area I can specialize in” Last week he informed us that he has received promotion to move up the ranks as “Acting OCS” in charge of a large Police Station.
The author of this article is Sr Mary O’Malley, MMM. A co-founder of CHTEA and current Chairperson of the Board of Trustees.