Zimbabwean woman nabbed in Finland at airport for suspected child smuggling

Finnish authorities suspect a Zimbabwean woman of arranging the illegal immigration of two girls from Russia through Finland to Ireland.

The woman was detained at Helsinki Airport on 29 April. Image: AOP

The Finnish Border Guard said on Friday that they suspect a Zimbabwean woman of smuggling two minors. The woman was taken into custody at Helsinki Airport on Sunday. Finnish officials believe she tried to illegally bring two girls, aged around 7 and 14, from Russia via Finland to Ireland.

Officials began to scrutinise the trio because the adult’s explanations about the purpose of their trip and of her relationship to the girls were contradictory.

“A patrol spoke with the woman, and found contradictions in her explanation of the purpose of the trip, which lacked the normal precision. She claimed to be related [to the girls] but the [alleged] relationship varied, which aroused suspicions,” says Border Guard Lt Juho Sillanpää, who is leading the investigation.

The woman was found to be carrying documents leading to suspicions that they were travelling under false identities. The Border Guard suspect that she did not know the children before the trip.

“The stories were not believable. There is reason to suspect that she was travelling under a false identity. And that led to the suspicion that there was no family relationship involved,” Sillanpää tells Yle.

Child smuggling cases rare

The woman has been placed under arrest on suspicion of a crime as the Border Guard investigates the case.

Sillanpää declined to comment on a possible motive at this stage. He says that those travelling with children always come under particular scrutiny at airports.

Cases of child smuggling are rare in Finland. Sillanpää says the Border Guard comes across about two or three incidents annually where there are suspicions of children being illegally brought through Finland to a third country.

“This year there has been one very similar case,” he notes.

Last year, the Finnish Border Guard’s Criminal Investigation Unit at Helsinki Airport launched 27 pre-trial investigations involving facilitation of illegal entry and 14 pre-trial investigations involving aggravated facilitation of illegal entry.