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Scout events used for illegal immigration


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International Scout and Girl Guide jamborees are being exploited for illegal immigration.


Six Scouts are still missing after attending the 21st World Scout Jamboree near Chelmsford, Essex, last summer. They are believed to have remained in the country illegally.


Five Kenyan Girl Guides also vanished after attending an international jamboree in Ireland last July. There are even concerns they may subsequently have been trafficked into the UK.


While immigration officers are trained to spot children who may plan to stay in the country illegally or who are being exploited by traffickers, the potential abuse of the respectability afforded by the Scout and Guide uniforms presents a new challenge.


One of those missing from last summer’s events is Ossai Elvis, a 16-year-old Nigerian. He is pictured in his Scout uniform on Britain’s official police website for missing children.


The Scout and Girl Guide movements are keen to emphasise that only a very small number of children have disappeared of the many thousands who attend events. Linda Peters, chief executive of the Irish Girl Guides, said: “We would be extremely concerned if we were being used as a conduit for child trafficking.


“We are now in the summer season and parents are saying, ‘Is it safe to send our children to camp?’ We have to stress security is very tight.”


In July last year, eight Girl Guides and five adult supervisors from Kenya arrived at Dublin airport to attend the Irish Girl Guides summer jamboree in County Meath. They were among about 1,000 Guides who attended the international camp.


There is usually stiff competition to get to jamborees and the Kenyan girls made an impression with their dancing and singing.


The girls left the camp for Dublin, but subsequently vanished and five have not been seen since. A woman who had been travelling with the girls, Polly Mbugua, 40, was arrested and later jailed after being found to have false documents for children that would have enabled them to travel to the UK.


The five Guides listed on Ireland’s official missing children website are named as Caroline Njoki, 11, Jean Wanjiku, 14, Magdaline Nyagathi, 16, Alice Wanbui, 16, and Jane Nyambura, 17. Their disappearance received no publicity until last month when a worker at the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children went through missing-person files — and realised the children had all vanished after the jamboree. The case was then raised at a conference where it was claimed the girls may have been the victims of child traffickers.


According to the United States Trafficking in Persons report, 400,000 children are trafficked across national borders each year and Kenya is one of the countries targeted by criminals. “Children are trafficked to the Middle East, Europe and North America for domestic servitude, enslavement in massage parlours and brothels, and forced manual labour,” it says.


The Irish case may not have been publicised because immigration officials thought the girls were trying to enter the country illegally to join relatives in Ireland or England.


Two of the girls are, however, reported since to have turned up in the care of social services in England and a third is also thought to have been traced.


Kathleen Lynch, Labour spokeswoman on equality in Ireland, said: “There are huge concerns over what might have happened to these girls after they vanished.”


The Irish case highlights how international events for children can be exploited to obtain visas. At last year’s World Scout Jamboree in Essex, attended by Prince William, 13 Scouts went missing and six are still unaccounted for.


Essex police believe the missing Scouts, who came from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Uganda and Nigeria, may have wanted to stay in England illegally. “We do not have concerns about their health and welfare,” said a spokesman.


Chris Beddoe, director of Ecpat, a coalition of children’s charities that campaigns to raise awareness about child trafficking, said: “There seems to be a second-class system for migrant children that go missing. There is an assumption that they will be reunited with relatives in this country. But any child can be a victim of trafficking, and it is very important they are found.”


It emerged last April that more than 400 foreign children had gone missing from local authorities in the three years to July 2007. Anti-trafficking campaigners claim the children are often removed by criminal gangs who then exploit them for illegal enterprises.


A spokesman for the Scout Association said all Scouts who attended jamborees have “support and sponsorship” from the Scout groups in their home country. He said he believed accreditation checks were satisfactory.


A spokesman for the Garda, the Irish police, said the investigation into the five missing Girl Guides was still under way.


Lost count


— Each year in Britain an estimated 100,000 children go missing. Of these, 1,300 are still missing after two weeks — many of them likely to be trafficking victims


— A study at Heathrow found 1,800 unaccompanied minors arriving in three months.


— Last year 6,000 unaccompanied children seeking asylum were supported by councils


— From July 2004 to July 2007, 408 foreign children disappeared from England’s 16 main air and sea ports





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