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Bid to move UK teenagers in Ghana
Kotoka International Airport, Accra, Ghana

The girls were stopped at at Kotoka airport in Accra
The girls were stopped at at Kotoka airport in Accra
The British High Commission (BHC) is in talks with Ghanaian officials to get two girls accused of drugs smuggling moved to a more "suitable" prison.

Yasemin Vatansever and Yatunde Diya, both aged 16 and from London, were held as they tried to board a plane in Accra while allegedly carrying cocaine.

A BHC spokesman said he hoped they would be moved to a "more appropriate" secure juvenile correction centre.

If found guilty the pair could face at least 10 years in jail.

Sharing a cell

The girls, who are next due in court on Wednesday, say they were not aware that drugs - said to be worth about 300,000 - were in their luggage.

They were arrested on 2 July and held for several days in cells at the police headquarters in Accra.

Rest Inn Tesano in Accra
Rest Inn Tesano in Accra
Two men paid for the girls to stay at the Rest Inn Tesano, Accra

On Friday they were moved to the headquarters of the narcotics control board where they are sharing a cell which has a shower and a toilet.

Family members have not yet visited the girls but have said they are confident the country's legal system will bring about justice.

Fair Trials Abroad is ensuring the girls have proper legal representation in Ghana and is providing support to their families in the UK.

Yasemin is the daughter of immigrants from Cyprus, while Yatunde is of Nigerian descent. Both are UK citizens.

Laptop bags

The Foreign Office said the pair were arrested at Kotoka International Airport, in Accra, and had been charged with possessing and attempting to export an illegal substance.

Ghanaian authorities were said to have found the drugs in laptop bags carried by the girls.

Two Ghanaian men apparently paid for the teenagers' accommodation in Accra.

The girls have told police the men gave them the laptop bags.

British girls held in Ghana with 300k cocaine
By Richard Alleyne, Sophie Borland and Mike Pflanz, West Africa Correspondent - 13/07/2007

Two British schoolgirls face more than a decade in an African jail after being found with cocaine valued at 300,000 in their holiday luggage.


Security guards outside Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana
The girls, both 16, were arrested boarding a Heathrow-bound British Airways flight in Ghana with 14lb of the drug allegedly in their cases.

The pair, Yasemin Vatansever and Yetunde Diya, both from Islington, north London, were detained at Kotoka airport in Accra, the capital, in a joint operation between British and Ghanaian authorities.

It is alleged they were recruited in Britain, given a free, week-long holiday and duped into smuggling the drugs.

Their parents, who thought they were on a trip to France organised by their school, the Islington Arts and Media School, were said to be "devastated".

A spokesman for the HM Revenue and Customs said it appeared the girls had been "duped" into carrying the drugs but said they still faced lengthy prison sentences because they had claimed they packed the cases themselves.

They were said to be "very, very distressed" and shocked. If convicted of drug smuggling, they face 10 years in a juvenile prison.

The spokesman said: " It's very unlikely they knew that the drugs were in their bags. We think they were recruited in London but they would serve the sentence in an African jail, which would be very hard."

A police report in Ghana said the girls were given 3,000 each to transport two laptops back to England. They had all their flights and expenses paid and a party thrown in their honour on the day before they left, it said.

However, officers from the Ghanaian Narcotic Control Board, found a false compartment containing drugs in the laptop bags.

Yasemin was reported as saying: "Boys gave us two bags and told us to bring it. We never thought there was anything inside.

"The boys told us to drop it off to the boy at the airport, at Heathrow.

"It was basically like a set-up. They didn't tell us nothing and we thought it was nothing because basically we're innocent."


Map showing the drugs route from central America to Europe
It is believed that the drugs were discovered by scanners fitted by British custom officers as part of Operation Westbridge, a joint project to stop Ghana becoming the "new Jamaica".

"These girls are not the first British nationals to be arrested but they are the youngest," said the Customs spokesman.

Tony Walker, the head of Operation Westbridge, said: "The use of such young girls as couriers vividly illustrates the ruthlessness of the gangs involved in this traffic."

South American drug traffickers have increasingly used Ghana as a gateway for getting drugs into northern Europe.

Since Operation Westbridge was set up in November drugs valued at more than 10 million have been seized from more than 44 couriers.

It follows the success of a similar operation between British and Jamaican authorities that stemmed the flow of drugs from the Caribbean.

Miss Vatansever's sister, Shanel, 19, said she was "worried sick" about her. She said Yasemin had a place to study social work at college.

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