Friday, June 09, 2006

Two Nigerian women have been accused of kidnapping a newborn child to force his mother to become a prostitute

Graham Keeley:

TWO women have been accused of kidnapping a newborn child and holding him prisoner for nearly four years to force his mother to prostitute herself.

The three-year-old boy was freed by police after they raided a flat near Madrid, where he had been held throughout his life. Two women were arrested in connection with the alleged kidnapping, which took place in August 2002.

The case is one of the darkest episodes in the murky world of Spain’s burgeoning sex slave trade and has shocked the country as it strugggles to cope with a wave of African immigration.

The child’s Nigerian mother told police that days after she gave birth to the boy, he was snatched from her. A €45,000 (£31,000) ransom was demanded and she was forced to work as a prostitute to pay it off.

The mother, who said that she was brought to Spain as an illegal immigrant but now lives legally with her partner, added that she had faced voodoo threats if she went to police.

She said that she worked as a prostitute in sex clubs in Madrid and other parts of Spain to pay off her “debt”.

But when she stopped working as a prostitute she made a complaint to police in Lérida, Catalonia, northeastern Spain. A specialised police unit that deals with foreigners traced the child to a flat in Móstoles, near Madrid.

Neighbours said that they had never seen a boy, but had heard a child’s cries. Police began a surveillance operation in a flat opposite and spotted a child fitting the boy’s description. They raided the flat, where they found the child safe and well. They also found the mother’s passport.

The boy showed signs of delayed development and had only just learnt to speak. In the flat were some voodoo effigies, police said.

Every year thousands of women, mostly from Brazil and Eastern Europe, are duped into moving to Spain with the promise of work. Once there they are forced to pay off imaginary debts by working as prostitutes in sex clubs.

Sex tourists from across Europe, including Britain, travel to Spain to take advantage of foreign prostitutes, who are usually forced to give most of their earnings to the gangs that run the rackets.

Police said that the mother had made a formal complaint, and medical records proved that her son had been born in a hospital in Móstoles in August 2002. His birth was registered in Fuenlabrada.

Last month the specialised police unit in Madrid traced a couple who the mother claimed had kidnapped her child. They arrested two women, named as Becky F, 27, and Faith N, 24, who are both Nigerian.

The child had been a virtual prisoner in the flat, and neighbours said that they had never seen him being taken for a walk in the nearby park. He was not registered at local schools and had problems with communication, police said.

The two women who have been arrested lived with two other children, a girl and an older boy.

Spain has been overwhelmed by the thousands of illegal immigrants arriving in tiny kayaks in the Canary Islands this year, mostly from West Africa.

Spanish police rescue hostage boy

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