Potent anti-trafficking tools introduced

01 April 2019 | Crime

JANA-MARI SMITH



Namibian authorities have taken a major step towards boosting their ability to combat human trafficking and to ensure victims are given robust after-care services in Namibia.

On Friday, the gender equality and child welfare ministry launched the national referral mechanism (NRM) and standard operating procedures for the identification, protection, referral and safe return of victims of trafficking in Namibia.

Moreover, a multi-pronged awareness raising campaign was launched to strengthen public vigilance.

At the same time, the police issued a pocket manual for police officers and prosecutors to provide practical information to officers working in the field.

“Trafficking in persons is a human rights violation which increasingly has become a global issue of particular concern and Namibia is not an exception,” Charles Kwenin, regional director of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), said at the launch.

The IOM had helped Namibia to create three shelters for victims of trafficking in the Oshikoto, Khomas and Zambezi regions, he said.

In 2018, an international report evaluating the efforts by governments to combat human trafficking noted that during the year under review, 21 trafficking victims had been identified in Namibia, but only five were referred to non-governmental shelters.

The 2018 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) found that 15 of the Namibian trafficking victims were exploited for forced labour and six were victims of sex trafficking.

The mechanisms launched last week will help define the roles and responsibilities of officers and service providers working with victims of trafficking.

US ambassador Lisa Johnson said by formalising these procedures, the Namibian government had made a commitment “to a victim-centred approach to combating trafficking.”

She said the national awareness campaign would help communities to assist the authorities in tackling trafficking cases.

Step by step

Speaking on behalf of Deputy Prime Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, youth and sport minister Erastus Uutoni said the plight of the trafficking victim did not end with the termination of the trafficking situation.

Once safely removed from the situation, trafficking victims are faced with a number of difficulties which “seriously limit their chances for survival and further development.”

In this regard, the NRM and SoP guide stakeholders in ensuring they promote the rights of the victims even after they have been removed from the trafficking situation.

Namibia has successfully prosecuted three cases of human trafficking, with sentences that ranged from eight to 30 years behind bars, Prosecutor-General Martha Imalwa said on Friday.

Currently, seven cases were pending: three in regional courts and four in the Windhoek High Court. Imalwa stressed that in trafficking cases, prosecutors guide the investigation from start to finish.

Imalwa said although much had been done to train officers in order to improve detection, investigation and prosecution, the role of the public was vital.

She said Namibia’s current Tier 2 rating in the annual United States TIP report was worrying, but the country was now ready to improve this rating.

Efforts

The 2018 TIP report designated Namibia as a Tier 2 country for failing to meet the minimum standards in eliminating trafficking.

These failures included the fact that no traffickers had been convicted for a second consecutive year and that the country lacked formal procedures for victim identification and referral.

The report did note Namibia’s significant efforts to combat trafficking, including trafficking investigations and prosecutions, training more than 1 000 front-line responders, and the introduction of legislation and policies.

Ambassador Johnson praised the Namibian government for finalising the national referral mechanism, a vital component of the Combatting Trafficking in Persons Act, which she said would help ensure that victims of trafficking received the services they needed.

She said globally there were an estimated 25 million victims of human trafficking, trapped in a multibillion-dollar industry that weakened the rule of law and strengthened criminal networks.