Human trafficking in SA continuing despite coronavirus, says Interpol

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Cape Town - Human trafficking in South Africa and the rest of the continent is continuing unabated despite the coronavirus, resulting in hundreds of victims unable to get assistance, according to Interpol.

Unlike other regions in Africa where human trafficking is multidimensional, in Southern Africa, South Africa serves as the transit and destination point for human trafficking.

Despite travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock says the land route for human trafficking from the Horn of Africa to South Africa continues to show signs of worrying activity.

“Human trafficking, whether for sexual or labour exploitation, is already complex to detect in ‘normal’ times. The novel coronavirus pandemic has only pushed human trafficking deeper into the dark and its victims further from possible detection and assistance,” said Stock.

According to Mohamed Daghar, a researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, human trafficking routes in Africa are as complex as the trade itself.

Trafficking routes differ and are irregular depending on the type of trafficking.

“Human smuggling which is controlled by smugglers is different from human trafficking which is driven by traffickers. This is an important distinction to note especially when looking into routes used,” says Daghar.

“In some cases the routes of trafficking are the same as the routes of smuggling but not the other way round. With trafficking, routes differ and are irregular depending on the type of trafficking. However, they sometimes use smuggling routes,” said Daghar.

He said In West Africa, countries serve as a source, transit, and destination for trafficked victims.

While in the East African region, women are mostly trafficked for prostitution in the Gulf States. Kenya serves as a source, transit and destination country for trafficking of young girls and women to and from Europe.

All countries in the northern region of Africa serve as source, transit and destination countries for trade in human commodity.

It is estimated that about 9.24 million individuals are enslaved in all of Africa, making up 23% of the total global enslaved population.

According to the 2019 ENACT Organised Crime Index, human trafficking is also prevalent in Libya, Sudan, Nigeria Eritrea and DRC. It is less prevalent is Sao Tome and Principe, Mauritius, Cabo Verde, Namibia and Lesotho

Daghar says that the following smuggling and trafficking routes currently exist in Africa ;

– Eastern Route – from the Horn to Yemen and possibly onwards to Saudi Arabia.

– Southern Route – from the Horn of Africa to South Africa with Kenya as a transit point.

– Sinai Route – from the Horn to Israel through Egypt.

– Northern Route from both the Horn of Africa, Central Africa, West Africa and the Sahel to Europe.

The continued growth of human trafficking on the continent has also resulted in actions from the African Union (AU) in an effort to subvert the human crisis.

Sabelo Mbokazi, head of the African Union's labour, employment, migration and social affairs department, says the AU has prioritised the issue of combating human trafficking.

“We have identified North Africa as one of the active corridors where the scourge has increased therefore the AU has established what is called the AU-Horn of Africa initiative, this is to work with countries in the horn of Africa and come up with policies that can help combat human trafficking. We are also establishing Africa’s operation centre in Khartoum Sudan, this centre will collect data from across the continent,” Mbokazi said.

* This article is part of IOL’s Don’t Look Away campaign run annually during the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children. This year our focus is STOP HUMAN TRAFFICKING. Read more here.

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