Some parents will tell you take the child to the airport in London and abandon them there. The majority of the children are unaccompanied, and have no relatives to receive them at their destination
We charge US $7,000 to $10,000 per child. We pay US $720 for a borrowed passport – in fact, just this morning two children came from England and I want to contact them to get their passports to use for other children. We return the passport to its owner when the children are safe inside [the chosen destination].
Before [the events of] 11 September, we charged US $7,000. Now we charge more for older children because it’s more difficult. For the smaller children we used to charge US 3,500, but now it is US $7,000. The only difference is the charge for Italy: that was always US $7,000, because the girls get jobs as housekeepers and can start sending money home immediately.
We take children of all ages. I once took a girl who was only three.
Before 11 September, I think there were about 250 children sent out of Mogadishu every month. Now there are about 40. We spend about US $900 on the air ticket. If we borrow the passport, we pay an extra US $720, so we have a US $1,880 profit on a US $3,500 hambaar. Now it is more. We use all the airlines: BA, Royal Gulf Air, Singapore Air, Daallo, Juba Air.
We buy the tickets through travel agents in Britain or Dubai. We always pay in cash. We don’t follow only one route, we alternate. The main routes are Ethiopia and Dubai directly to London, or Dubai-Frankfurt and then to London.
Sometimes we drop some of the people in places that we transit in Europe. Once going through Stockholm we left a boy and girl. Sometimes you get caught midway and you don’t have a way of communicating with the family in Somalia or the family you are heading for…
There are many ways of getting the children into another country. You can borrow someone else’s passport. We make passports for children over five. Someone with a British passport claims to have lost his passport and applies for a replacement. When the immigration office asks him to provide them with his photograph, he posts them photographs of the person in Somalia who needs to travel. He then sends the passport to Somalia.
You can work with some people in the immigration office. You pay them and they give you a stolen passport. The passports are genuine documents with a valid number, but without an identity. They are a bit dangerous, because if [officials at the immigration controls] run them through the computer, the number comes up, but not the name. I had two girls the other day, and they did a check on the computer and we had to come back. It’s not a problem. You just come back and try again.
We have a 60-percent success rate on the first try, and 100 percent success rate on the second. Most of the children are unaccompanied, and have no relatives to receive them at their destination. Some parents will tell you to take their child to the airport in London and abandon him there. The child is made ready with tales from Somalia – he must tell the authorities that his parents were caught up in the fighting, or dead, or he may request that his parents be brought at a later stage. We do not
accept to take more than two children from the same family; it’s dangerous.
When the children are young, and I am planning to take them, I pose as the father and teach the child to believe that I am the father. I tell him the name on my passport and make him cram the details. Staff at the airports [in Europe] are very kind to the children and do not press them with questions. We also dress the children like the children in London. On most occasions, the agents posing as their parents end up answering the queries for the children. This makes it very simple.
You encounter lots of problems. For example, in 1998 I smuggled two children, who were seven and eight years old. We lost each other at the airport, and I looked for them for two hours. Eventually I went to town and told the people who were supposed to receive them. They rushed to the airport, and found the two children had already been questioned and were about to be sent to an area where they get Somali people to help them…
People entice you with money …In two months, you can make between US $10,000 and $15,000. The readiness of the Somali people to part with their money to get to Europe is astounding.
Once they get in, they are set. Life is good there. They get a house, free school and hospital, and every Thursday the [British] government gives them 80 pounds [sterling]. And if you are a Somali already living there, they will give you money to take the child into your home, which is another 80 pounds a week.
So said Muhammed, agent involved in moving Somali children from Somalia to western Europe. His statement was documented in a report entitled A Gap In their Hearts, The report explains how Somali parents, in Somalia, often pay agents money to take their children to a variety of western European countries, often unaccompanied by a family member (Hannan, 2003, p6). Hannan (2003, p13) notes that, “Many of the separated Somali children arriving in Europe are coming from areas affected by insecurity or actual conflict in southern Somalia and Mogadishu, but children are also sent from peaceful post-conflict areas”. Hannan (2003, p16) reports that, ‘According to figures from immigration sources in Europe, more Somali boys were arriving in Europe in the early to mid 1990s…. However, by the late 1990s, there was a demonstrable change in the trend, with an increasing number of unaccompanied girls being sent abroad.” Families take a calculated economic gamble with sending their children abroad. Amina Haji Emli, founder and director of the Institute for the Education and Development of Women in Mogadishu, told Lucy Hannan (2003, p15) that ‘Parents are selling their house and moving in with relatives to send their children’. Hannan (2003, p6) notes that “Deception, pressure and force are used by family members and smugglers to make Somali children adopt false identities, use fraudulent documents and travel abroad”.
The process through which Somali children are taken abroad with agents who facilitate their transfer is known to the police and the law courts as smuggling, trafficking and is considered a criminal offence.