In the SADC region the majority of detected victims of human trafficking are exploited for the purpose of forced labour.
Johannesburg – South Africa and the rest of the region are not free from human trafficking, despite some gains and better coordination among those directly involved in fighting this crime.
While figures are hard to come by, a draft report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat points to a reduction in figures reported between 2017 and 2020 when a total of 484 cases were recorded.
Accounting for the falling numbers reported could be that more countries in the region have developed specific laws to tackle human trafficking, after ratifying the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (the Trafficking Protocol).
Across the world, the average conviction rate tripled since 2003 when the Protocol entered into force. However, human trafficking is not in any way in decline. In 2018 about 50,000 human trafficking victims were detected and reported by 148 countries. But the number of victims could be higher, given the hidden nature of this crime.
The share of children among detected trafficking victims has also tripled globally, while the share of boys has increased five times over the past 15 years. Women and girls are still the primary target of trafficking, making up 46% and 19% of all victims of trafficking respectively.
Efforts to fight human trafficking are the focus of International Day Against Trafficking in Persons on 30 July, which this year is looking at the internet as both an enabler of trafficking and a possible tool to fight such crimes.
The internet has revolutionized human trafficking. Among traffickers’ most preferred ways of finding victims is posting fake job offers online, promising work opportunities, often in far off lands. Such recruitment and coercion often occur through targeting on social media.
But the internet also enables criminals to arrange for victims’ transportation and accommodation as well as to hide the proceeds of their crimes. They can do all this quickly and anonymously, by using false identities.
“The key to fighting this crime is teaching our children how to safely navigate their way on the internet, especially social media, whose penetration is now so widespread that no child wants to be left out,” said Jane Marie Ongolo, the Regional Representative of the UNODC in Southern Africa.
She added: “If we do not impress upon our children that not everyone offering friendship online means well, they will be sitting ducks without even knowing it.”
Human traffickers come in different guises and include individuals who use it as a direct source of income, as well as business owners, intimate partners and other family members.
The most vulnerable victims of human trafficking are people in economic need, undocumented migrants, children in dysfunctional families, persons who are marginalized such as those with mental disorders. In Southern Africa people living with albinism are among those targeted, for their organs.
Globally, 50% of detected human victims of human trafficking were for sexual exploitation and 38% for forced labour, while 6% were subjected to forced criminal activity and more than 1% to begging. Smaller numbers were trafficked for forced marriages, organ removals and other purposes.
This is in contrast to the situation in the SADC region where the majority of detected victims of human trafficking are exploited for the purpose of forced labour. They are put out to work – such as selling goods in markets, begging and labouring on farms, quarries and in mines.
“If we are to make head way against human trafficking we also need to enlist the academia, communities and the private sector for the development of sustainable technology-based solutions to support both prevention and mitigation efforts,” Ongolo said.
About the Southern Africa Migration Management (SAMM) project
The SAMM project is funded by the European Union and is a collaboration between four UN agencies: UNODC, ILO, IOM and UNHCR, under the one-UN model. The overall objective is to improve migration management in the Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region.
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