Gabon police have arrested the man responsible for chartering the Etireno, which was carrying dozens of children into slavery. Stanislas Abatan, from Benin, and five men from Togo and Benin who were his accomplices, were arrested at the end of May.

Benin yesterday got a new government, in the wake of a controversial presidential election, with many familiar old faces in the revamped line-up. Benin's President Mathieu Kerekou has begun his final five-year term as the west African country's head of state after retaining his post in a March election which his main challengers boycotted.

Thousands of children as young as six years old are trafficked across borders into slavery in West Africa to work as domestic servants, on farms and in markets in the region's wealthier countries. Most work long hours in harsh conditions and receive little or no pay.