Ivory Coast Arrests 4 for Trafficking Children to Cocoa Growers

Ivory Coast police arrested four alleged child traffickers and rescued 19 children suspected of being transported to work on cocoa plantations in the West African nation.

The police operation took place during the transportation of the children -- said to be from the neighboring nation of Burkina Faso -- from the north of Ivory Coast to the southeastern town of Aboisso, according to an official.

A specialized police unit was used in the anti-trafficking operation as 42 people were being transported from the town of Korhogo, Police Commissioner Luc Zaka said via text message Saturday. He said 19 minors, ranging in age from 12 to 17, were allegedly being trafficked.

Children from Burkina Faso have routinely ended up working on plantations in Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa grower. West Africa has long faced problems of underage workers in the industry and the region needs to do more to tackle child labor, according to the International Cocoa Initiative.

Last year, authorities rescued 137 children and arrested 12 suspected traffickers during a two-day operation in Ivory Coast. Officials have since received more resources and opened six operational centers in the main cocoa-producing regions to better tackle the illicit trade.

But a decade after the $100 billion chocolate industry pledged to cut child labor in the world’s top cocoa producers, a 2020 report sponsored by the U.S. government showed the problem had actually gotten worse. Ivory Coast had earlier rejected claims contained in the draft report. Major chocolate companies, including Mars Inc. and Nestle SA, have committed to help eradicate the problem of child labor.

At least two million children were working in plantations in West Africa, according to Cocoa Barometer 2018, published by several non-governmental organizations including Oxfam and Voice Network.

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