Parents deny their children were traffickedPhoto | Some children rescued from alleged traffickers/File Photo/Ahmed Somali/Ergo
Parents of some of the five girls, snatched from the hands of alleged child traffickers by Puntland police in March, say their daughters were on their way to Bosasso to look for jobs.
These parents, farmers from Hawaadleey village in Bal’ad district, Middle Shabelle region, contacted Radio Ergo after hearing reports that their daughters had been taken into the care of the Puntland authorities after police arrested two men suspected of leading a child trafficking operation.
The parents said their daughters were going to Bosasso to look for paid employment. The families live some 75km to the north of Mogadishu. Mohamed Eenow Faarah, the father of Jiijo Mohamed and uncle of Ruqiya, two of the five girls being held in Garowe, told Radio Ergo:
“We ourselves have sent the girls to Bosasso, accompanied by the two young men who are relatives of ours. One of the men is married to a sister of one the girls and the other is a brother to one of the girls. We therefore wish to make it public that our children were not destined for being sent abroad!”
The five girls have been held in the care of the Women and Family Affairs Ministry in Garowe, and the two men in police custody, since they were apprehended by Puntland police stationed at Qardho. The authorities said the girls’ families were being traced so they could be reunited. An International Organization for Migration (IOM) official, Hussein Hassan, confirmed to Radio Ergo last month that the five girls were aged between five and 14.
But Mohamed Eenow said the girls were all teenagers, aged 14-16, and were looking for work. He said they were forced out of the village by the hard economic situation biting their families. “We are poor farmers, who get small yields from our farms, and are at times swept by floods. There is high unemployment in the village, life is hard here, so we sent the girls to Bosasso to look for opportunities there as housemaids. We saw that as the only way to earn an extra income for our families, so we sent the girls there,” he said.
Hijaas Barsanja Haaji, father of one of the two young men being held as traffickers, told Radio Ergo that his son was not a criminal smuggling the girls abroad, but had been entrusted by the parents with the responsibility of taking the girls to Bosasso.
One of the girls had been reported to be five years old. The relatives who called Radio Ergo insisted the girls were teenaged. Abdilkadir Yusuf Dahir, the Director General of Puntland’s Ministry of Women and Family Affairs, told Radio Ergo that the five girls would remain in their custody until they could be handed over to their parents.
However, Mohamed Eenow said when they contacted the Puntland administration, they were told to send money to facilitate the return home of their daughters. He said: “We are appealing to Puntland government and the aid agencies to lend us a hand in returning our girls and the two young men who were with them, for we don’t have the means to bring them back here.”
Although these families said they had willingly sent their children out for work, universal laws prohibit the employment of children.
Abdulkadir Abdulle/Abdiraxmaan Xaaji/FM