HARGEISA (Somalilandpress) — A Sri Lankan citizen of Russian native was detained for questioning after he was caught attempting to smuggle a 13 year old girl from Puntland, Haatuf reports.
Asha Mohamed Hassan, 13, from Qardho in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, went to her usual work on Friday 5th of February in one of the local beauty salons where girls occasionally get their hands and feet decorated with henna. On that same day, an Italian woman, also a regular client, whose mother is said to be Somali came to the salon.
Asha told Haatuf, the Italian woman lured her with the promise of a job in Hargeisa that was paying $600 per month. She was told she will be working for a family as a housemaid, doing basic household chores.
“The Italian woman, who I met before asked if I wanted to work in Hargeisa, I told her, I tried before to go to Hargeisa to find a job but did not work out for me. However I told her if she would pay for my journey I was ready to go,” she said.
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After getting her clothes, Asha was forced into the boot of a car to avoid being seen by her sisters who run their own stalls in one of the central markets.
“She then asked me to get my belongings and be ready, there was a car leaving for Hargeisa tomorrow. After getting all my belongings she took me to a house in the out skirts of the city where she lived, a moment later a Mark II car approached us and she told the driver to hide me in the boot from my sisters and the guards at the check-points,” she told Haatuf.
Once they left the town of Qardho, Asha said, she was moved to the front seat of the car and crossed the border after few hours.
While traveling through the city of Buaro, Somaliland’s second largest town, the driver was contacted by a man who stated that the girl was to be delivered to him.
Once they arrived in Hargeisa, Asha claims, she was delivered to a ‘white man with damaged skin’. The man is actually a Sri Lankan who suffers from leprosy, a chronic skin disease. She added she was in a state of shock, disbelieve and distressed as she thought she would be working for a family not a man.
“I told him, I don’t know you and I will not go with you, he then requested I speak to my sister referring to the Italian woman,” she said.
The driver took the girl to one of his relatives in Hargeisa where she is currently staying. Later she find out that the Sri Lankan man was detained by the police and is said to be in prison.
Asha has since contacted her family and his in good spirit.
In a press conference in Hargeisa today, Somaliland police Chief, Col. Mohamed Shiil Dibar said they have detained a Sri Lankan man of Russian origin. He said, the man, who lived in Qardho for five years wanted to take the girl to Russia. He warned Somaliland parents to be alert and at all times monitor their children.
No one knows if the driver will face any charges and Puntland has not commented either and no one knows if the Italian woman in the centre of the trafficking is detained.
In a similar incident, a young girl is currently held in Burao by the regional authority after she was kidnapped by an Oromo lady (ethnic group in Ethiopia) and sold her to two Ethiopian men.
Halima Osman Bile, the mother, said her daughter went missing midday in the town of Bandar Bayla in Puntland, near the northern tip of Somalia, where pirate base Eyl is more popular.
The little girl was taken to Puntland’s commercial town of Bosaaso before she was smuggled into Somaliland.
She is currently held in Burao by the local authority as police investigate the matter. The case is still under review.
No one knows the number of children trafficked, kidnapped or smuggle each year between Somaliland and Somalia but there has been a sharp increase in recent years due to the lack of border patrols and influx of immigrants. Child smuggling was unheard of in Somaliland and Puntland but in recent years there have been an influx of immigrants displaced in Ethiopia and Southern Somalia, where kidnapping children is more common.
It was not long ago, when a lady from Southern Somalia also kidnapped a two year old child from the town of Las Anod before her family informed the police.
In early February of this year, Somaliland’s minister of Family Affairs and Social Development, Ms. Fatima Sudi voiced her concern about the new problem of human trafficking.
“This is something new to us but widely known in the war torn places. It is called human trafficking,” she said.
Ms. Sudi said her Ministry has been working hard in finding a viable solution to the issue and dealing with the tremendous immigration problem.
“We thank [the] UN & NGOs, who had assisted us with the problem of human trafficking. We extend special thanks to the government of Japan, who funded IOM to assist us on these matters,” the minister said.
“There are people who are experts on carrying out human trafficking activities. They lure people, they tell them that there are better places with better life, but at the end those innocent lives will be exploited.”
Ms. Sudi said they will be launching massive awareness campaign and very soon huge billboards will go up in the regions of Awdal, Hargeisa, Sahil, Togdheer and Baligubadle.
According to an analyst, most of the trafficking involve immigrants or foreigners in the country.
Source: Somalilandpress, 23 February 2010