The first, and most common one, according to research report A Gap In their Hearts, involves the use of a legitimate passport issued to a Somali child with British nationality. The agent “borrows” the passport in Britain for about $720 – or 500 pounds sterling – and takes it to Mogadishu. There, he screens children and selects those with vaguely corresponding facial features. Sometimes, boys are passed for girls and vice-versa. “Sometimes what happens is you have a passport for a 15 year old girl, and you have to take out a 13 year old boy,” explained one of the staff of an NGO operating in Mogadishu – “the boy has to dress like a girl”. Agents confirmed that this has been successful as a strategy.
The second most common method involves filing a claim for a lost passport through the post, but submitting a different – but similar – picture. The request apparently takes only a few weeks to process, with no contact ever taking place between immigration officials and the applicants.
The third, and most risky technique works through a racket inside European immigration offices, the agent said. “Virgin” passports are stolen, photographs attached, necessary stamps added, and then sold to the smugglers. The passports are genuine documents, but the identities they eventually acquire have no legitimacy. When they are put through a computer, the passports will betray the false identity. “I had two girls the other day, and they [immigration officials] did a check on the computer and we had to come back,” the agent said. He was evasive when pressed on the fate of the girls.
A fourth method is to assume false paternity or maternity of the children, who are then placed on the “parents’” passport.
Finally, another method involves manipulating rights regarding unification of families. Agents of both sexes claim the right to be rejoined with false spouses, and then apply for citizenship.
The research report A Gap In their Hearts, involved an interview conducted by Lucy Hannan with a smuggler, who identified five ways in which he could smuggle Somali children into London.
In 2003 the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs commissioned this report from the Integrated Regional Information Networks to better understand the business of smuggling Somali children into western europe and north america.