Woman smuggled baby to keep her council flat

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A woman who illegally brought a child into the UK from Nigeria in order to remain eligible for a council flat after her own daughter had left home has been jailed for 26 months.

Peace Sandberg, who has joint Nigerian-Swedish nationality, smuggled the child to Britain after her daughter left their council flat in Ealing, west London, to go and live with her father in Sweden. Ms Sandberg was taking advantage of a rule allowing the use of council flats for EU citizens with children.

In late 2006, she flew to Nigeria after making a payment of £150 to somewhere in the country, according to police. On her subsequent arrival back to the UK, she went to the housing department with the child, a boy.

Last month, Ms Sandberg was convicted of bringing a child illegally into the country, a practice charities say is commonplace.

Andrea Charles, a visa officer at the British High Commission in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, described during the trial how a distraught Ms Sandberg had turned up claiming to have given birth in Nigeria in order to qualify the boy for a Nigerian visa.

An Ealing councillor, Mr Ian Green, said: "She told staff that the child was hers. But they had seen her only a few months before and knew that the child couldn't be hers as she wasn't pregnant at the time.

"She then changed her story and said she had adopted the child. Council officers were still not satisfied and alerted the police."

The Metropolitan Police's "Paladin" Team, who are specialists in child trafficking, investigated the case.

The director of the children's charity ECPAT UK, Christine Beddoe, said: "We get information brought to us about suspicions of child trafficking particularly for housing benefit fraud from social services and from children's organisations."

She added: "They don't seem to be reported to the police. But we do believe it is much more widespread than people think."