$7 Buys a Girl in Ivory Coast

Thousands of Children End Up as Slaves in Europe

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LONDON, NOV. 9, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Victoria Climbie, who was born in the Ivory Coast, was sent to England with the hope that she would have a better life than her parents could offer.

Instead, when she arrived in London, Victoria was raped, exploited and treated like a slave by her great aunt, Marie Therese Kouao.

Kouao, 44, who had custody of Victoria, is now in prison for life. When Victoria died in London in February 2000, she had endured seven months of torture and her body was covered with wounds.

Victoria´s story is not unique. Other children like her in the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe suffer a similar fate.

According to a recent BBC study, there are hundreds of children being abused — minors who every month leave West Africa and are brought illegally to Europe, where they are enslaved.

BBC sources revealed that there are 10,000 African children living with unknown individuals in Great Britain.

The youngsters arrive with the promise of a better life and education and, instead, end up in the hands of pederasts and exploiters. Others are simply used to get more subsidies, guaranteed by the state to families with several children.

A girl may be purchased for as little as $7 in the Ivory Coast. False documents for her entry into Europe cost about $500, the BBC revealed.

«Every day I pray to God to give me the strength to cope with the sufferings of my past,» young Mary from Benin said, who was brought illegally to Great Britain when she was 10.

«For 10 years I worked 17 hours a day without stopping,» she told BBC. «They used to hit me and not feed me, even for three days in a row.»

Although Mary has stayed in England, some in similar predicaments have been able to return to their countries.

Debe, for example, was taken to Italy at 13 by a friend of his father. For three years, he was the man´s slave and that of his pederastic friends. One day he went to the Ivory Coast Embassy in Rome, which sent him back to his country.

On Thursday, Karim Astrom, president of Save the Children in the Ivory Coast, told the press that the organization behind the illegal traffic and exploitation of children is like the mafia.

«Poverty is primarily responsible for this humanitarian disaster,» she said. «Needless to say, there is talk of organized crime, which in some cases works in close contact with governments of some African countries. As with the mafia, however, it is very difficult to understand how the traffic really works.»

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