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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

illegal trafficking ~ underage African footballers to Laos !!

Calais  is a town and major ferry port in northern France. Calais overlooks the Strait of Dover, the narrowest point in the English Channel, which is only 34 km (21 mi) wide here, and is the closest French town to England. Due to its position, Calais since the Middle Ages has been a major port and a very important centre for transport and trading with England. The town was virtually razed to the ground during World War II, when in May 1940, it was a strategic bombing target of the invading German forces who took the town during the Siege of Calais.  It continues to worry Britons due to the problems of illegal immigrants entry.

Two illegal immigrants have been identified after they drowned trying to swim the Channel to Britain, it has emerged.Mouaz al-Balkhi was found dead on the Dutch island of Texel last October, just days after buying a wetsuit at a shop near Calais.The remains of Shadi Omar Kataf, from Syria, were discovered on exposed coastline at Lista in the south of Norway on January 2.Their identities were only revealed following months of research by the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet.

Entering England swimming through English channel is not the option, yet these people tried – and failed.  A Home Office spokesman said: “We are aware that this type of attempt to cross the Channel does happen, but we are not aware of any particular trend, and nor have we seen an upturn in this type of activity.”The number of illegal immigrants caught trying to enter Britain clandestinely more than doubled last year, the National Crime Agency has disclosed.The agency, dubbed “Britain’s FBI”, said in an annual review of the threats facing the country warned the figures were likely to continue rocketing.It said the most common type of illegal immigrant discovered last year were those being trafficked for work exploitation.

Illegal migrants desperate to get in to Britain have exploited the closing of Calais and travel chaos on both sides of the Channel.Thousands of migrants who have massed at the French port used a wildcat strike by French ferry workers to try and clamber on to Britain-bound lorries that were left queuing for hours.By late afternoon, hundreds of migrants lined junction 42 of the A16 motorway, the main entrance for cars and lorries taking the Eurotunnel to the UK, approaching trucks in small groups and trying to board by all possible means.Vastly outnumbered by the migrants, riot police did their best to keep them at bay and away from the lorries, hundreds of which were stuck in a huge tailback due to the closure of the Channel tunnel.The lorries were either stationary or moving at a snail’s pace as trains started to run once more after the day’s industrial action.

Away from the entry of illegal immigrants – this report on BBC is different as it speaks about  ‘Underage African footballers 'trafficked' to Laos’.  African footballers as young as 14 are being trafficked to Asia and forced to sign contracts, the BBC has learnt.Six minors are still with top Laos side Champasak United, after it imported 23 under-age players from West Africa to an unregistered football academy in February, a BBC investigation found.Fifa regulations prohibit the movement of players to a foreign club or academy until they are 18.The club, based in the southern city Pakse, denies any wrongdoing though.

It has been claimed that Champasak United, a newly-formed club which plays in Laos' top league, intends to profit by selling the players in future. One young African player at the academy described his time at the club as 'like slave work' "It's hard to live in a place with no windows", one young player told the BBC.  In a clear breach of the world football governing body's rules, the club has fielded overseas players as young as 14 and 15 in league games this season.One 14-year-old player, Liberia's Kesselly Kamara, who scored in a full league game, says he was forced into signing a six-year deal before playing for the senior team.His contract promised him a salary and accommodation, but Kamara says he was never paid and had to sleep on the floor of the club's stadium - as did the rest of the travelling party. Kamara's contract promised him a salary of $200 a month.

"It was very bad because you can't have 30 people sleeping in one room," Kamara, who is now playing for a club back home in Liberia's top league, told the BBC.All those who travelled to join the "IDSEA Champasak Asia African Football Academy" did so after being invited by former Liberia international Alex Karmo, who captained the club at the time.Young players gratefully accepted the invitation, since Liberia lacks a football academy of its own, despite being the only African country to have produced a Fifa World Footballer of the Year - George Weah (1995).

"It's a fictitious academy, which was never legally established," said Liberian journalist and sports promoter WlehBedell, who led the group to Laos in February but who has since returned. Players say they are rarely allowed to leave the stadium compound, where they live and train.  Following initial pressure from both Fifa and global players' body FIFPro, Champasak released 17 teenagers from the original party, with Kamara among them, three months ago.But six minors chose to remain.

"Players are in this wild place that is reminiscent of the civil crisis in Liberia when people left their homes and were displaced, [taking shelter] in a makeshift building or auditorium," Bedell, who experienced his country's civil wars of 1989-96 and 1999-2003, told the BBC.The minors' freedom of movement is restricted by the fact that they became illegal immigrants in March after their visas ran out. Many of the young academy players have contracts, but no work visas; they are hoping to receive work permits but these are unlikely to arrive since all are underage.

Some of those who have returned to Liberia have told the BBC they were poorly fed, rarely paid and received no medical assistance from the club despite contracting malaria and typhoid because of the conditions.Evidence of clubs breaking regulations on signing international players under 18 is rare but European champions Barcelona are currently serving a transfer ban for this very offence.Meanwhile, the parents of 12 boys found themselves in financial difficulty after taking loans to pay $550 towards the cost of the trip to Laos, with one case currently in the hands of Liberian police.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

21st July 2015.

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