The Western Regional Command of the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS), through its Axim Sector Command, has arrested a total of 31 ECOWAS nationals suspected to be syndicates engaged in commercial sex working and human trafficking at their hideouts in the Ellembelle District and Nzema East Municipality of the Western Region.
The two-day intelligence operation, led by Deputy Superintendent of Immigration (DSI) Emmanuel Dams of Axim Sector Command with officers drawn from Axim and Mpohor offices of the Service, began at 0230hrs on Saturday, October 14, with a swoop on a brothel facility and some adjourning drinking bars and makeshift structures within the Essiama enclave, resulting in the arrest of the suspects aged between 22 and 37 years.
A statement signed by Assistant Inspector Moses Manford Akakpo, Western Regional GIS Public Affairs Officer, and copied to the Ghana News Agency in Takoradi said the operation, which lasted several hours, led to the arrest of 17 suspects, including the owner and manager of the facility, one Mr. Kofi Bekoe, a 62-year-old man at the first instance.
Subsequently, 12 others and two suspected human trafficking collaborators were also picked up in two separate mop-up operations, the statement said.
According to the statement, “In all, the over 30 hours of sustained operation led to the arrest of 28 suspected commercial sex workers, including two nursing mothers.
The other suspects were the two suspected traffickers, Ndubueze Okereke, 37 and his wife, Ifeoma Okereke, 35, all Nigerians with exception of Mr Bekoe, who is a Ghanaian and the host among the suspected trafficking syndicate”.
It noted that the operation was planned and successfully carried out with the support from the authorities in the two Assemblies, owing to the growing concerns of such illegal activities, especially by some of the foreign nationals within their operational communities.
Per the statement, a search conducted as part of the investigations revealed that all the suspects entered the country illegally and, therefore, were without passports or any other travel identification documents, adding that “Further search on them and the premises revealed packs of used and unused condoms especially in the rooms”.
It said: “In a related development, the very same Kofi Bekoe was arrested some months ago and granted bail in order to continue with the investigations into a case of harbouring foreign nationals engaged in commercial sex work, contrary to Act 29 of the Criminal Code of 1960, Aliens’ Registration Regulation 1974 (L.I. 856) and Section 13 of the Immigration Service Act 2000 (ACT 573) among other relevant legislations in Ghana”.
Meanwhile, the statement indicated that the suspects were currently in the custody of the Western Regional GIS Headquarters for further investigations, prosecution and subsequent repatriation to their country.
The statement, therefore, called on landlords and property owners across the country to be mindful of the existence of Immigration laws and its consequences by checking and confirming the immigration status of all foreign tenants before renting out their properties to them.
The statement also called for support from residents, saying “The Western Regional Command of the Ghana Immigration Service, in its quest to sustain this exercise into the future, used the opportunity to encourage all its stakeholders, including law enforcement agencies, chiefs, opinion leaders, community members, border residents as well as transport/canoe operators to continue supporting its operations in order to ensure maximum security for both the indigenes and the foreign community in the region”.