Trafficking in Persons, as Pope Benedict XVI reminds us, is a real ‘scourge’ of our time and is generally referred to as ‘Modern Day Slavery’. It is difficult to comprehend that in this day and age slavery still exists; that people are bought and sold and transported all over the world. Yet, it has been suggested that slavery is more common now than at any time in world history and that hardly any country is untouched by it. Due to the underground nature of trafficking, there are no official records of trafficked persons, therefore, estimates vary widely. Some estimate that there are 27 million in slavery worldwide; that approximately 800 000 people are trafficked across national borders.
This does not include the millions trafficked within their own country. Child trafficking is said to be on the increase. The United Nations estimates that child-trafficking alone generates 7 to10 billion US dollars annually for traffickers. It cites trafficking in persons as the second most lucrative crime around the world next to the drug trade and that 30% of trafficking victims are below the age of 18.
Trends in trafficking in and to South Africa
In South Africa, trafficking in persons is both a trans-national crime as well as a crime that takes place within the borders of the country. It has become a source, destination and transit country for trafficking in persons as it is perceived in and outside the continent as the economic giant in Africa offering many opportunities. People are trafficked for many reasons including for labour and sexual exploitation. Trafficking is further spurred by an increasing sex tourism. There is evidence that children are trafficked for a number of reasons – for labour and sexual exploitation; to be beggars, street vendors, housebreakers and drug runners. However, statistics on trafficking are not easily available as information reported to the police is captured under alternative charges such as racketeering, abduction, or organised crime.
The primary factors that facilitate trafficking in persons are, as we hear so often: poverty, family breakdown, gender discrimination, culture, HIV/AIDS, war, natural disasters and political instability, ignorance and demand. Other factors include weak laws and corruption and migration.
Despite significant efforts made by the South African Government to combat trafficking in persons (ratification of the Palermo Protocol and progress on developing a national plan of action to deal with the problem) the country has been placed on the “Tier 2 Watch List” by the US Department of Trafficking in Persons ,for the past four years. This is because South Africa has not met the minimum standards, laid down by the Palermo Protocol, needed to eliminate trafficking. It has been unable to provide data on trafficking crimes which have been investigated or prosecuted, because they have been placed under other offences. It is hoped , however, that the anti-trafficking in persons legislation bill will be in place by the end of 2009. Important moves have been taken on different fronts.
From 25 – 29 March 2009, I did attend the National Conference on Human Trafficking , held at the Elangeni in Durban. The Conference was organized by the SOCA Unit of the NPA. The Unit has formed a “Trafficking in Persons Intersectorial Task Team”, which includes : the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development; Home Affairs; Labour; Social Development; SAPS; IOM; UNODC and the NGO MOLO SONGOLOLO. The Department of Health , Correctional Services, Education and the national Treasury are also represented in the partnership. This is an important move towards a holistic approach to fighting the crime. Besides a National Task Team being formed, each Province will be asked to establish a regional task team on a similar basis. KZN has already led the way. It has also been announced recently that the Legislation Bill will soon be in the Gazette for public debate. The Conference was funded by the EU who have given 6.3 million euros to assist the SOCA unit of the NPA to put the resolutions of the meeting in place.
Internal and External Trafficking
South Africa shares borders with Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique and Swaziland. It has 72 official ports of entry “and a number of unofficial ports of entry where people come in and out without being detected” along it’s 5 000km-long land borderline. The problem of porous borders is compounded by the lack of adequately trained employees, resulting in few police officials controlling large portions of the country’s coastline. Countries with reported trafficking links with South Africa include Angola; Botswana; Congo, Democratic Republic; Congo, Republic; Lesotho; Mozambique; Malawi; Namibia; Swaziland; Tanzania; Zimbabwe; Zambia. Known links with Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Swaziland are often highlighted at workshops.
Trafficking in women and children for sexual exploitation is a significant problem in Southern Africa
Women seeking refugee status in South Africa from other African countries are trafficked by refugees already living there. Mozambican girls and young women are trafficked into major cities. An estimated 1000 Mozambican girls are trafficked to Johannesburg each year and sold as sex slaves or as wives to the Mozambican mine workers. Young women have been trafficked from Thailand and China to South Africa. When identified by police in South Africa victims of trafficking are deported as illegal immigrants. Victims are afraid of law enforcement and do not trust the police to assist them. South Africa has no public services specifically designed to assist victims of trafficking. . Trafficking in South Africa appears to be closely linked with the highly sophisticated global sex industry.
Trafficking and Major Events
It has been argued that there are at least two ways in which international sporting events can affect human trafficking. Firstly it can contribute to a short-term increase in demand for prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation in and around the event. Secondly, it can facilitate the entry of trafficked persons as “visitors” before they are transited to other cities or countries where they are exploited.
Concerns around 2010 FIFA World Cup
The upcoming 2010 FIFA World Cup (FWC) in South Africa which is expected to generate more than $4 billion, the highest revenue in World Cup history, raises various concerns about the possible increase in the abuse, exploitation and trafficking in persons especially children during the games; that it will provide opportunities for abusers, exploiters and traffickers to meet the perceived increased demand for cheap labour and sexual services.
At a meeting in September last year , organized by Molo Songololo , it was said that during June and July of 2010 South Africa will host the 2010 FWC. 32 teams will arrive 2 to 3 weeks prior to the tournament and then, during a period of 43 days, an estimated 2.7 million local spectators will view 64 matches played in 9 cities around the country. It is also said that there will be an estimated 350 000 to 500 000 visitors to the country. It is estimated that 20 million fans will be watching the games on big screens at fan parks across the country. The 9 cities where the event will take place include: Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban, Bloemfontein, Rustenberg, Pretoria, Johannesburg, Nelspruit and Polokwane. Major concerns were raised among us, some of which included:
– South Africa is planning to introduce visa-free travel across southern Africa in time for the 2010 WFC with the purpose of promoting tourism and freer business travel and trade in the region. Relaxing of visa requirements for travel in the SADC region could contribute to potential risks of increased migration that could include trafficking.
– recruitment of young women and children from rural areas for exploitation in the major Host Cities.
– children may make their own way to the cities in a desire to be part of festivities, which could render them vulnerable to exploitation.
– An increase in child labour could result from parents sending their children to the street to beg for money from tourists or children being recruited to sell paraphernalia. Tourists may also lack information regarding the trafficking of children for purposes of child labour which may exacerbate the problem. The event could lead to an increase in need for cheap labour, and opportunities for petty crime and begging. The increase in demand for domestic work may lead to girls being recruited from rural areas.
– An increase in the demand for sexual services.-and this demand will be filled by trafficked victims. Trafficking in women and children for sexual exploitation was noted as an already significant problem in Southern Africa.
– An increase in organized crime. The fact that gangs and organized crime syndicates are already operating in the country, with concerns that these criminal groups are targeting children in order to fulfil the perceived increase in demand for prostitution and drugs which the event is expected to bring.
– The fact that the schools will be closed during the 2010 FWC has been identified as potential risk factor as this will lead to a sharp increase in the number of unattended children.
– Unmet demand for cheap labour
– Demand for sexual services for example linked to tourism development.
– Changes in the economy, which has increased the demand for cheap labour.
– Demand from certain types of men for sex with children.
Overall, Poverty, high unemployment and lack of opportunity – the quest for a means of survival –are listed as ultimately the engine driving trafficking in human persons.
Children identified to be most “at risk”
Various reports by Molo Songololo emphasise that In recent years there has been and increase in the number of trafficking in children cases identified. These cases include trafficking in children for purposes of sexual exploitation, labour exploitation, abduction and removal of organs. As trafficking networks in the region are already reported as a risk, external trafficking, particularly within the region, has a very strong likelihood of increasing in expectation of economic gain around the event. While all children may be vulnerable to trafficking, there are certain groups that can be considered more vulnerable than others. This is largely because many of them lack awareness around the dangers of trafficking. Economic vulnerability is, as already mentioned , a major cause, exacerbated by emotional reality and previous abuse. Children on the street are particularly vulnerable. Most at risk include unattended children, street children, and refugee children, lost children are all vulnerable and at risk of exploitation and trafficking. The WFC event could also attract paedophiles who can easily disguise their purpose within the event.
In the year 2000, Molo Songololo already estimated a figure of around 30 000 child prostitutes in South Africa. As is highlighted above, concerns and debates surrounding the impact of sporting events appear to be centred around the issue of demand. More specifically, the concern is based on the argument that a temporary gathering of persons in a setting such as the World Cup will lead to an increase in demand for sexual services and this demand will be filled by trafficking victims.
The Counter Trafficking in Persons Desk of the Catholic Church in South Africa
This Desk was set up in January 2008 by the Leadership Conference of Consecrated Religious (LCCL)(SA) and the Southern African Catholic bishops’ Conference (SACBC). Because of the ignorance of many around the whole issue of trafficking in persons one of its major tasks has been that of awareness raising. To this end a number of workshops have been conducted around the country. Capacity building programs have also been conducted in various dioceses so that those trained continue the awareness raising and prevention campaign in parishes and among the wider community in their areas. To this end also much resource material has been produced.
Of late we have been discussing certain activities that are within our scope to make every effort to reduce the level of trafficking in persons around 2010 and beyond. We have learned of the ‘Red Card’ Campaign in Germany which was a great success in reducing the level of trafficking in persons there in 2006. We wish to do something similar and produce material to be distributed to hotels, internet, TV and newspaper advertisements .
South Africa is planning to take direction from Germany and erect Fan Parks in every 2010 FWC host city during 2010 FWC. Fan Parks are enclosed public viewing areas (PVAs) where all matches will be shown live on big screens with live entertainment and DJ’s entertainment between matches. In addition to these and other official Fan Parks, bars restaurants and shopping malls across South Africa will also set up commercial viewing areas for fans. In our planning special attention will also be paid to the nine Host Cities which will host matches as part of the 2010 FWC, noting main stadiums at which matches will be played, as well as the training venues and official fan parks that can be regarded as significant areas around which much activity for the event will centre.
What tourists and visitors need to be aware of:
– Visitors need to be made aware that South Africa is a ‘hotspot’ for human trafficking.
– Tourists and visitors need to be aware of the expectations of those who come from desperately poor circumstances, viewing 2010 as an opportunity to improve their members’ economic conditions. These people are vulnerable. As there will be a natural attraction to the Host Cities to be part of the celebrations vulnerable people are open to exploitation.
– Tourists may also lack information regarding the trafficking of children for purposes of child labour and sexual exploitation.
– Prostitution is illegal in South Africa. However, very often traffickers intermingle trafficked girls among local prostitutes.
– Street children are particularly vulnerable to abuse.
How you can help
– Awareness raising
Many are not sensitized to the reality of human trafficking around the globe. Target possible visitors to SA finding ways to circulate information about the reality of human trafficking in Southern Africa and how the poor and destitute in the SADC region are used and abused and deprived of their human dignity.
– Support the efforts of the Counter Trafficking Desk in producing material for its 2010 campaign to protect our people, especially women and children against being trafficked.
Sr Melanie O’ Connor is the Co-ordinator of the Counter Trafficking in Persons Desk for the Conference of Catholic Bishops of South Africa.