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KIGALI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Rwandan police have rescued more than 150 people from trafficking in the last four years, officials said on Wednesday, calling for greater efforts to combat the growing crime.
Rwandan officials say women and girls, and to a lesser extent boys, are being trafficked for domestic and sex work both internally and abroad. Many end up in neighboring countries, as well as the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, China, Europe and the United States.
Between 2009 and 2013, Rwanda's Criminal Investigation Department investigated 36 cases and rescued 153 people from trafficking, its deputy commissioner Tony Kuramba said.
Out of these, 138 people had been prevented from being trafficked from Rwanda, Kuramba told the Thomson Reuters Foundation after a press briefing on the trafficking statistics, which were released by police for the first time.
"Normally they are traumatized, especially those who were sexually exploited," Kuramba said, highlighting a case involving several Rwandan girls who were trafficked across the border to Uganda with promises of work in 2013.
The girls, who were forced into the sex trade, were later rescued, Kuramba said.
Under Rwandan law, convicted human traffickers face up to 15 years in jail and fines of up to $16,000.
The Rwandan government is making "significant efforts" to tackle trafficking, according to the U.S. Department of State's 2014 trafficking in persons report, which cited the training given to all newly hired immigration police officers on how to identify trafficking victims.
In 2013, the government opened an Interpol liaison office at Kigali International Airport, where officials intercepted Ugandan women being transited to Dubai by traffickers.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame has called on government officials to fight human trafficking, which he said was a growing problem in the central African nation.
"Can we afford to keep quiet in the face of human trafficking? People are not commercial goods. This should stop now," local media quoted Kagame as saying in August at the swearing-in ceremony of new ministers.
Reporting by Clement Uwiringiyimana; Editing by Katie Nguyen