Malian police rescued more than 60 victims of human trafficking, mostly women and girls, who were subjected to sexual exploitation, forced labour and begging, Interpol said on Friday.
Four suspected traffickers were detained in the joint operation launched in early October between Malian authorities and the international police organisation.
The 64 victims, from Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Mali, had been “exploited in different countries before their arrival in Bamako”, where they were found working in bars, homes and mining sites, Interpol said in a statement.
Due to its geographical position in West Africa, Mali is a transit country for thousands of migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa who try to reach Europe and North Africa.
Trucks carrying migrants north frequently breakdown in the desert or become lost, with smugglers sometimes abandoning their human cargo, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said in June.
More than 160,000 migrants made their way to Mali between July 2016 and 31 January 2019, according to data collected by the IOM.
“Mali serves as major transit country for human traffickers who target the most vulnerable members of society,” Interpol secretary general Jurgen Stock said on Friday.
“This operation showed that human trafficking and people smuggling is a truly transnational problem,” he added.
Interpol said during the operation the Malian government passed a decree to create a police unit dedicated to tackling human trafficking and migrant smuggling.
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