World Day against Trafficking in Persons
As we observe World Day against Trafficking in Persons today, the Western Cape Minister of Social Development, Sharna Fernandez, would like to pay special tribute to the first responders to human trafficking.
The World Day against Trafficking in Persons was originally proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly on July 30, 2013.
Minister Fernandez said, “These are the people who work in different sectors - identifying, supporting, counselling and seeking justice for victims of trafficking, and challenging the impunity of the traffickers.”
Minister Fernandez added, “During the COVID-19 crisis, the essential role of first responders has become even more important, particularly as the restrictions imposed by the pandemic have made their work even more difficult. Still, their contribution is often overlooked and unrecognized.”
Minister Fernandez continued, “Since the launch of the local Victim Empowerment forum (VEP) Forum, stakeholders have been trained in identification of a human trafficking victim and service providers has been made aware of the referral pathway for a victim of trafficking to access services. Moreover, 14 Victims of Trafficking in our shelters last year.”
The Western Cape Department of Social Development, through its Victim Empowerment Programme, is responsible for providing support services for victims of human trafficking that includes safe and secure accommodation, psycho-social support and empowerment of victims of crime and violence.
Last year, 14 victims of human trafficking were supported by the department’s shelters.
Furthermore, the provincial Department of Social Development is currently funding 20 shelters in the Western Cape that can accommodate victims and their children up to 3 months, and 4 emergency shelters that accommodate victims.
The existing shelter funding model consists of unit cost, security, skills development and a social work/ social auxiliary work post. For the financial year under review, the provincial Department of Social Development spent R25 million on the shelters.
Shelters provide for basic needs that include: safe accommodation, protection, food, clothing and emotional support such as trauma debriefing and therapeutic counselling provided by a social worker. To assist with reintegration, victims are also provided with skills development opportunities to assist with the economic empowerment of the victim.
Empowerment of the victim starts from the point of admission at the shelter, where the victim’s needs will be assessed including whether the victim has a permanent place of stay. The assessment report will influence the services or interventions conducted with the victims.
What is human trafficking?
Human Trafficking has many faces. It is important to look beneath the surface.
- It is the buying & selling of people for the purposes of exploitation. It is a serious crime and a grave violation of human rights.
Human trafficking is a crime against humanity/ a person. Men, women & children are trafficked for a variety of exploitative purposes.
These reasons can include:
- domestic servitude – where victims are forced to do domestic work for little or no pay, there are often abused and are not free to leave out of their own free will;
- labour exploitation – where victims are forced to work; exploitation in the sex industry or sex trafficking – where victims are forced into prostitution;
- harvesting of body parts;
- illegal adoption;
- baby trafficking;
- non-consensual ukuthwala;
- forced begging;
- child soldiers; forced military service;
- forced marriage and
- debt bondage – forced to work as means to repay a loan.
How does trafficking happen?
Trafficking networks – trafficking rings use a network of people which can include taxi drivers; recruiters; farm owners; landlords; people who threaten families or buying services of victims to recruit victims of human trafficking.
Victims are identified using the vulnerable circumstances that they find themselves in. These vulnerabilities may include: poverty, desire for a better life; unemployment and lack of education
Trafficking rings use force, fraud, deception, acceptance of offer to travel e.g. an offer of an all-expenses paid trip as methods to lure victims into human trafficking.
Arrival & deception
When victims arrive at the new location the following are common occurrences:
Their passports and identity documents are taken away; they are forced to use drugs; they are abused and raped and fear is instilled in them through threats to their own or their family’s safety.
What can I do if I know someone who may be a victim of trafficking?
There are a number of ways in which you can seek assistance:
Report your suspicion to the South African Police Service (SAPS) by contacting 10111.
In terms of the Prevention and Combatting of Trafficking in Persons Act (7 of 2013) it is an offence not to report the incident and failure to report can result in prosecution. You can contact the South African National Human Trafficking Resource Line : 0800 222 777. This is a toll-free line that operates 24 hours 7 days a week.
We also urge the public to report the matter to a social worker from the Department of Social Development by contacting 0800 220 250.
Minister Fernandez said, “We need to have a whole of society approach to deal with many of societies issues. In far too many cases we find that organizations, different spheres of government and other key stakeholders operating in silos. I’m trying to create coordinated responses among various stakeholders to ensure that we are far more successful in our efforts to fight against human trafficking.”
“I would like to ask the public to get involved by joining the conversation and using the hashtags #EndHumanTrafficking and #HumanTrafficking on all digital platforms,” concluded Minister Fernandez.
For more information about our other services, please refer to the Western Cape Department’s Website below: