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Ivory Coast frees 48 child slaves on cocoa plantations

YOUNG WORKERS: Children were being used as slaves or cheap labor in West African cocoa farms

POLICE IN Ivory Coast freed 48 child slaves in raids on plantations in the country's Western cocoa belt and arrested 22 people accused of trafficking or exploiting children, Interpol said.

The children, aged 5 to 16, came from Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso as well as northern Ivory Coast and were liberated in an operation from June 1 to 6 in the country's western cocoa belt of San Pedro, reported Reuters.

Some of them had been working in the fields for up to a year in extreme conditions that were "seriously jeopardising their health."

An official from the International Organisation for Migration said that care centres had been set up in the area to give the children medical and psychological assistance.

The arrests were part of a series of planned operations against child trafficking and labour in West Africa, Interpol said.

"We're sending a very loud message to the plantation owners, and we're sending a very loud message to the traffickers themselves," said Michael Moran, Interpol's assistant director of human trafficking and child exploitation services.

"If you traffic these children in, there will be a police response."

In 2001, revealed that children were being used as slaves or cheap labor in West African cocoa farms, where the majority of the world’s cocoa is birthed.

More than ten years later and there are still over a million children working on cocoa farms with little more than the torn clothes on their backs and their hands and faces are often sliced with machete scars - the main tool used to cut down the cocoa from trees.

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