Human trafficking expands in KZN
Say it with a sting.....
Barbara Cole September 15 2008 at 11:38AM
Human trafficking is big in KwaZulu-Natal - and it is getting bigger, a workshop on the topic has heard.And, just as in the rest of South Africa, it largely takes the form of sexual exploitation.There are girls and women working in brothels who have been lured into the province and the country on the pretext of bettering their lives, furthering their education or working in restaurants.They find themselves in a strange country or province (there is inter-provincial trafficking) with no family or friends to turn to, often do not know the language, do not know how to get home and cannot escape from their trafficker because they owe him money for their transportation and accommodation.
And they cannot go home because their passports have been taken from them. Belief The Daily News has learned of several cases in this province of girls from other countries - Mozambique and Thailand - some enticed here by the mistaken belief they would be working in restaurants.Thai girls have been "partially deceived" about what life in KwaZulu-Natal and the country holds in store for them.Already sex workers, they have been told they will earn more money in South Africa.But when they get here, they find they can only work for themselves after they have paid back the trafficker.The workshop heard about one case where a girl had almost paid back her trafficker, only to find she was then sold to another trafficker."They are regarded as property," said Mia Immelback, of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), who is helping the Southern African Counter-Trafficking Assistance Programme.The workshop on trafficking was organised by the South African government in partnership with the IOM.Immelback said a victim of human trafficking - described as "modern-day slavery" - was forced to sleep with hundreds of men and not allowed to use protection.There was a big demand for Thai girls - particularly in this province, sources said - as they were considered "exotic" by their clients.The victims of human trafficking have been able to get into the country with the cooperation of corrupt immigration and police officials, who have taken bribes to turn a blind eye.Advocate Amanda Ledwaba, the director of investigations in the Department of Home Affairs, told the workshop that 90% of the illegal border crossings into the country, whether they involved human trafficking or smuggling, took place with the connivance of officials and police.It is difficult to get the precise number of victims, because many are deported when police carry out raids and discover the girls have false papers.Many victims do not realise they have been trafficked - and not every girl knows that she can turn to the IOM for help.The National Prosecuting Authority is planning to set up a task team in the province to, among other things, inform police and other stakeholders that if they find a victim they should refer her to the IOM.Trafficking is a highly lucrative business (worldwide, it is thought to be worth $7 billion-$13 billion, or R58 billion to R100 billion a year). Traffickers also try to adapt their methods to keep ahead of the law. Some traffickers, especially those bringing in Thai women, do not use Durban International Airport because they know that they will be traced. They bring them in via Johannesburg's OR Tambo Airport and transport the girls into the region by road.New South African legislation will make it easier to prosecute the traffickers - and the people who transport them to their ultimate destination.Ledwaba said if the Trafficking in Human Persons Act was not introduced before the 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup, there would be a "disaster."Sex workers from all over the world would be heading to South Africa and human traffickers who brought them in would manipulate them, she said.Organs Ledwaba said later that it was hoped to bring in the legislation by December, 2009.Mozambique introduced legislation earlier this year enabling the authorities to prosecute traffickers.Victims are also trafficked for their organs for muthi, for forced labour on farms and factories, and for domestic work.There are various human trafficking routes into South Africa - and out of it, too.One route involves South African nationals with links to the SA sex industry and Triad groups who recruit women in strip clubs and falsely offer them high-paying jobs in Asia where they sign contracts in Chinese. They often experience death threats.Often traffickers - described as "very dangerous" - are known to the victim and trusted.And the difference between trafficking and smuggling? Trafficking is a crime against the individual, while smuggling of migrants is a crime against the state.Trafficking has to have three elements: recruitment, transportation and exploitation.
The toll free number for the IOM is 0800 555 999.
This article was originally published on page 5 of Daily News on September 15, 2008