Trafficking of children between various African countries shot to prominence in April 2001 as a result of media reports that a ship carrying ‘slave children’, the Etireno, had gone missing after being refused permission to land at Libreville in Gabon. When the ship eventually docked in Cotonou in Benin, the port it had first sailed from, some journalists reported that no slaves were found on board. There were 43 trafficked children on the boat, not chained or visibly enslaved. They were accompanied by adults who initially claimed to be relatives, but who, after leaving the boat, did their best to disappear from view. Many of the children remained so intimidated that they did not dare recount the truth about where they came from to social workers at the shelters they were taken to, run by Terre des Hommes and others. This article highlights media portrayal of trafficking in children in West and Central Africa, explains why girls are more likely to be trafficked, and discusses some counter-trafficking initiatives undertaken by a range of institutions.
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