Police in the Netherlands say they have cracked a crime ring which allegedly trafficked Nigerian children into the West to work as sex slaves.
At least 19 people were arrested in the Netherlands and five other countries including the US and Britain.
Traffickers used voodoo to gain a hold over children before smuggling them abroad in a racket which exploited the asylum system, police say.
Scores of underage Nigerians, mainly girls, may have been trafficked.
Dutch authorities had been investigating the disappearance of 140 Nigerian children from asylum-seeker holding centres since January 2006.
Several of the children were later found working as prostitutes in France, Italy and Spain, according to Dutch police.
Thirteen arrests were made in Dutch cities and towns while a further six people, all Nigerians, were detained in New York, Madrid, Dublin, Coventry and Antwerp.
Police said Germany and France were also involved in the operation but did not give details of any arrests there, though they said that “dozens” of arrests and searches of premises had been made overall.
Those arrested are suspected of people-trafficking and involvement in a criminal organisation, falsifying travel documents, fraud and money-laundering.
The Hague has asked for the suspects arrested abroad to be extradited to the Netherlands.
“The human-traffickers supplied the victims with false travel documents, flight tickets and instructions to seek asylum upon arrival at Schiphol Airport [Amsterdam],” a police statement said.
“The minors were placed in open shelters in the Netherlands, which made it relatively easy for the criminal organisation to keep control over the victims.
“Voodoo sometimes also kept the minors in line. In Nigeria they were forced to take a vow before a voodoo priest to repay a so-called debt.
“This debt had to settled with the earnings made in the prostitution. At their final destination the minor victims are under the constant supervision of a so-called ‘Madam’.”
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