England's White Dragon

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Sunday, 20 March 2011

Pastor Jailed for 11 years

Many come in my name, and will use my name for self-greed
and false prophet Pastor jailed for trafficking African child 'slaves' 

A church pastor has been jailed for 11 and a half years
after being found guilty of trafficking children into England for use as
domestic "slaves" at her home in Barking, East London.

Lucy Adeniji brought two children and a 21-year-old woman to
the UK from Africa illegally and used them as servants.

She was convicted of 17 different counts at Isleworth Crown

The mother-of-five is the first person to be jailed for
trafficking children into the UK for domestic servitude.

In a case that has been likened to modern-day slavery,
Adeniji smuggled the three victims into Britain on false passports, and used
them as servants at her home in Ray Gardens, Barking.

An illegal immigrant herself, Adeniji, 44 - originally from
Nigeria - had told the victims' parents they would have a better life in the
UK, but instead viciously beat them if they failed to please her.

Benefits inquiry

The abuse only came to light when one of the victims escaped
from Adeniji's home after being beaten.

Adeniji was convicted last month of assault, child cruelty
and facilitating illegal entry into England of a child.

She also admitted six counts of obtaining false passports
for herself and her own children and two counts of facilitating illegal entry.

Adeniji faces a separate investigation into money she
claimed in benefits for her own children.

Det Insp Gordon Valentine, of the Metropolitan Police's
Operation Paladin - which targets child trafficking - said the case could be
the tip of the iceberg.

"The people who are using this form of slavery in their
households know it is wrong," he said.

"This case is very important because it shows victims
that we can have successful prosecutions and that they can find justice."

The case has echoes of the maltreatment of Victoria Climbié
who died at the hands of her guardian, Marie Therese Kouao. She and her
boyfriend Carl Manning were found guilty of Victoria's murder in 2003.

Pastor Lucy Adeniji has the dubious distinction of
being the first person to be sentenced to a total of eleven and a half years in
prison after being found guilty of trafficking children into Britain for
domestic servitude.

Lucy Adeniji has been jailed for trafficking
children into the UK. Photo: Glenn Copus

Some years ago the BBC London  broadcast the story of Tunde Jaji, raised in
domestic servitude in North London and then abandoned to his identity
paper-less fate when he rebelled against his condition.

I managed to secure proof he had been in London for
more than 14 years and he went on to get his status regularised and a good
degree from University. He is now settled.

At around the same time I met a group of seven
women in similar circumstances who all agreed to speak to me after consulting
with their lawyer. For legal reasons I am only now able to tell their story
four years on.

One of their biggest frustrations has been getting
the authorities to believe their stories of domestic servitude and to act upon
their allegations.

So while the perpetrators of these acts of
inhumanity go about their business freely, their victims count the cost in
psychological as well as welfare terms.

One of the girls, whom I shall call Jenny, finally
got her day in court in February. Pastor Adeniji, was made to face the
allegations against her and the jury, having believed Jenny's testimony,
convicted her.

In short Adeniji could not account for the fact
that Jenny had no legitimate papers despite being in her care from the age of
11 (Jenny left Adeniji's home after eight years in 2006).

Nor could she account for the fact that Jenny had
not been at school for three years after coming to London from Nigeria in 1998.

Jenny's evidence of beatings; pepper in the eyes
and genitals, stabbings and all round brutality beggar belief. Speaking to
neighbours of the family in a quiet cul-de-sac in Beckton there was genuine
disbelief and anger that this had been going on right under their noses.

Part of the problem, it would seem, is reluctance
by the authorities to intervene and question families when they are seeking to
rely on the testimony of a child over an adult.

In the cases of the women I met in 2007, including
Jenny, nearly all approached the police to complain, once they had left the
homes where they had acted as domestic servants for years, to be met by a wall
of disbelief.

Debbie Ariyo runs a lottery-funded charity, Africans Unite
Against Child Abuse
(AFRUCA). She believes that many of the
perpetrators of this type of crime deceive the authorities by claiming that the
children are related in some way or even that their way of raising
"privately fostered" children is culturally specific.

Practitioners, she points out, need to listen first
to the child, then investigate and conclude before dismissing serious
allegations as the figment of a child's over fertile imagination.

This was the kind of grave failing that led to the
murder of Victoria Climbie by her great aunt back in
1999. Things were supposed to have improved.

The Met Police set up operation Paladin in
2004 precisely to look into the reasons behind the rise in the numbers of
unaccompanied minors entering England.

Detective Inspector Gordon Valentine was
responsible for investigating Jenny's case and believes that unfortunately it
represents just the tip of the iceberg. He also says public authorities and the
public themselves need to be more aware of the signs that a child is enslaved.

A young person regularly bringing children to
school, a child more bedraggled than other children in the same
"family". No parent's attending school functions or even GPs being
visited by minors without their parents.

In Jenny's case a regular school bus used to pick
up Adeniji's wheelchair bound daughter every day. But no one appears to have
thought to question why Jenny (a young child) was handing over the wheelchair
bound child in the morning and taking in the same child on her return.

The authorities are mostly playing a game of catch
up. Unless they can get to these victims quickly the evidence is often historic
and the perpetrators elusive. There is also no incentive for the victim to
cooperate if they face the prospect of deportation on being found out. This is
often the fear instilled in the child by their abuser.

The prospect of being effectively without status
for years can push these young victims over the edge. Another of the women I
met, I'll call her Sarah, described how desperate things can become, to the
point where committing suicide is a release from a fate many of them consider
worse than death.

Four years after first meeting these seven women,
only Jenny has seen here perpetrator investigated and prosecuted.

Jenny and her children have no permanent status
still in the UK. Sarah has been given a visa for five years. Two others have
indefinite leave to remain whilst the remaining 3 still are in visa limbo
unsure of their future.

Some immigration judges accept that this situation
runs counter to Britain's international treaty obligations enshrined in the Human Rights Act. This says if you want
people to cooperate to stamp out trafficking you must first ensure their

As Pastor Adeniji begins her prison sentence Jenny
sees some cause for optimism. She personally feels free from her abuser at
last. She also hopes that it will give other children who find themselves in
similar circumstances the courage to come forward.

The rest of us will just have to face up to the
fact that when we suspect something is not right we may have to raise our
concerns more quickly. We will often need to believe the unbelievable.

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