Child Slave Ship Arrives in Benin

Tuesday, April 17, 2001
Police, aid workers and government officials gathered in Benin's port of Cotonou on Tuesday to await a ship suspected to be carrying scores of child slaves.

The Nigerian-registered MV Eterino has been at the center of a frantic international search since Benin alerted the world last week that it was carrying a suspected 180 children, sold by poor families to work for nothing in oil-rich Gabon.

"I am relieved that the boat is coming after four days," Benin's social protection minister said. The cargo vessel sailed from Cotonou on March 30 bound for Libreville in Gabon, but it was turned back there and later from Cameroon's port of Douala last Thursday.

UNICEF, the U.N. Children's Fund, set up a receiving center in Cotonou, in collaboration with the Benin government and other relief groups, to receive the children after their 1,250-mile journey.

Benin's police unit stood by waiting for the protection of minors, ready to arrest the alleged ringleader of this child labor racket.

International arrest warrants have been issued for a businessman from Benin, Stanislas Abadtan, and at least two other people. Police also want to question the crew.

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