Human Trafficking not a crime in Botswana

Greg Kelebonye

STAFF WRITER-Mmegi Online

Police in Botswana cannot charge any person for “human trafficking” and the courts cannot adjudicate over such cases. This is because Botswana does not have legislation that acknowledges and criminalises human trafficking.

Considered as the most “mysterious, the most difficult to investigate and the most easily overlooked criminal act by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), human trafficking could be thriving in Botswana as a result, analysts say. There have been signs that the crime is growing in Botswana. For example, in 2007 the Philippines Bureau of Immigration arrested a Motswana, Peter Lucky, who was suspected of being a member of an international human trafficking ring.

He was expelled from the country soon after his arrest and declared a prohibited immigrant. Police’s Diamond and Narcotics Squad had interrogated many suspects, among them businessmen, police officers and labour consultants, in connection with a large-scale human trafficking network in Botswana.  The suspects were believed to be part of an organised human trafficking ring that ferried people from Bangladesh and Pakistan into Botswana and neighbouring South Africa. At the time the investigations were launched the police were said to have broken a number of organised cells, which had been using Botswana as a destination and transit for trafficked persons. So serious is the issue of human trafficking that it has become a regular agenda item for Botswana Police Annual Senior Officer’s retreats.

However, the police find themselves powerless to deal with this ever growing international threat, as the Penal Code does not recognise it.  And investigation of such cases is a nightmare for police, who while they clearly can identify a case of human trafficking are unable to charge the perpetrators with the crime.

“As the police we have dealt with cases involving the acquisition of people by improper means such as use of force, deception and, illegal transfer of these people.

The perpetrators were charged with a range of crimes from illegal entry to abduction,” police spokesperson Dipheko Motube told Mmegi. Motube said some of the perpetrators merely paid the P1, 000 admission of guilt fee – a far cry from penalties that can include long prison sentences and hefty fines in countries that have criminalised the illicit trade. UNODC says in its 2009 Report that about 2.7 million people worldwide were victims of human trafficking and were engaged in [forced] prostitution, begging, or high intensity labour in tough conditions. Among the number were 1.2 million children. The human trafficking business meanwhile reached up to $32 billion (P214 billion). “Virtually every country in the world is affected by these crimes. The challenge for all countries, rich and poor, is to target the criminals who exploit desperate people and to protect and assist victims of trafficking and smuggled migrants, many of whom endure unimaginable hardships in their bid for a better life, ” the UNODC says on its website.

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