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22 people jailed for trafficking children to cocoa farms in Ivory Coast

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Twenty-two people have been jailed for trafficking children to work on Ivory Coast’s lucrative cocoa plantations, police said.

Five received jail terms of 20 years, while the other 17 were given five years, the deputy director of the criminal police, Luc Zaka, told AFP late Tuesday.

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The convictions by the tribunal in Soubre, in the heart of Ivory Coast’s cocoa-growing region in the west of the former French colony, resulted from a swoop early this month.

The two-day operation was the fifth of its kind carried out since 2009, involving around 100 members of the security forces as well as forestry officials.

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They rounded up 68 children, Zaka said.

Ivory Coast is the world’s top producer of the cocoa bean, commanding more than 40 percent of the market with an annual output of some two million tonnes of cacao, the raw material for chocolate.

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The sector employs between five and six million people, but more than half subsist under the poverty line, a situation that incites the use of child labor on the plantations.

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