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Cablegate: 'Abducted' Children Case Stirs Trafficking Debate

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RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHTO #0190 0600714
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 290714Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY MAPUTO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8627
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0125

UNCLAS MAPUTO 000190

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KOCI MZ
SUBJECT: 'ABDUCTED' CHILDREN CASE STIRS TRAFFICKING DEBATE


1. SUMMARY: The discovery of 39 children being trucked more
than 2000 kilometers in squalid conditions reignited debate
regarding trafficking in persons in Mozambique. Although the
parents asserted that the children were being sent to Islamic
schools for religious training, none of the heads of the
schools admitted knowing anything about the children. The
debate raised the awareness of the authorities and the public
about a problem that is rarely discussed openly. END SUMMARY.

2. Mozambican Police recently intercepted a truck carrying
39 children, ages 6 to 15, from the Northern provinces of
Mozambique to Maputo, more than 2,000 kilometers away. The
children were traveling in the back of a truck, with little
food or water, accompanied only by the driver and one other
adult. Ultimately the police established that the children
were traveling to Maputo to enroll in Islamic schools to
receive religious education; the Attorney General's Office,
after investigation, concluded that the children were
traveling with the consent of their parents.

3. No head of any Islamic school in Maputo admitted knowing
anything about the children. One of the most important
Muslim leaders in the country, Sheik Amminudin Muhammad, said
that it was common practice for students from the Northern
provinces to attend his school but enrollment, completed
before a child was sent to Maputo, required several steps,
including parental approval. Many of the procedures were not
followed in this case, leading observers to suggest that the
parents had been duped by con-men and the children were being
sent to an unspecified destination for unknown and possibly
dubious purposes.

4. Mozambican police and various children's NGOs labeled the
case trafficking in persons and called on the government to
tighten controls and show political will in combating such
cases, which, they alleged, occur frequently. Research
conducted by Mozambican university Professor Carlos Serra
Junior concluded that Mozambican children of poor parents
were vulnerable to trafficking. He cited reports of poor,
illiterate rural parents giving their children to strangers
for transport to urban areas, after receiving promises of
schooling and employment for the children. Instead these
children end up as domestic workers in slave-like conditions.

5. COMMENT: Although there is considerable debate as to
whether the case is a clear-cut example of trafficking in
persons, the case raised the profile of this otherwise rarely
discussed issue among the authorities and the public. In
late 2007 the Government of Mozambique submitted a
USAID-funded draft law outlawing trafficking in persons to
the National Assembly. Whether the draft will be scheduled
for discussion and approval when parliamentary sessions
resume in March remains to be seen. END COMMENT.
Jones

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