Sex, human traffickers exposed

Over the past five years human traffickers have exploited domestic and foreign victims in Namibia, while traffickers also exploited Namibians abroad.

05 July 2019 | Local News

Namibia has performed substantially better in terms of prosecuting and convicting human traffickers, as well as identifying victims, according to a global report.

Despite achieving the same ranking in the 2019 US State Department's Trafficking in Persons Report, which was released this week, the country was lauded for making significant efforts to eliminate human trafficking.

However, Namibia has once again been placed on the Tier 2 List, which means it does not fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) minimum standards, but is making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with those standards.

According to the report efforts made by Namibia include more investigations and prosecutions of potential traffickers and convicting traffickers for the first time in two years. A total of nine trafficking cases involving 18 suspects were investigated in Namibia last year, compared to seven cases in 2017.

Of the nine cases investigated three involved alleged sex trafficking, four alleged forced labour and two investigations that were still ongoing at the close of the reporting period.

Prosecutions were also initiated in seven cases involving five defendants, in comparison to the four cases prosecuted last year.

All the defendants were charged under the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA) of 2004.

Meanwhile, two defendants were convicted, compared to zero convictions in 2017.

Among those convicted last year, one accused was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment, while the other was not yet sentenced at the close of the reporting period.

The report says the Namibian government also increased its efforts to protect trafficking victims. A total of 21 trafficking victims were identified, including five women, 10 girls, and six boys, of which 14 victims were referred to an NGO shelter, which was partially government-funded.





Five Namibian child victims were also reunited with their parents and two Zambian nationals were repatriated.

In comparison to 2017, a total of 21 victims were also identified and five were referred to a shelter. Seven victims were Namibian and 14 foreign nationals from Zambia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo DRC and Angola. Thirteen victims were exploited for forced labour, including domestic servitude and cattle herding, while seven were sex trafficking victims. One victim was exploited for both sex trafficking and forced labour.

According to the report over the past five years human traffickers have exploited domestic and foreign victims in Namibia, while traffickers also exploited victims from Namibia abroad.

It said some victims are initially offered legitimate work for adequate wages, but are then subjected to forced labour in urban centres and on commercial farms.

Namibian children are subjected to forced labour in agriculture, cattle herding and domestic service, and to sex trafficking in Windhoek and Walvis Bay.

“Among Namibia's ethnic groups, San and Zemba children are particularly vulnerable to forced labour on farms or in homes.

“Children from less affluent neighbouring countries may be subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour, including in street vending in Windhoek and other cities, as well as in the fishing sector. Angolan children may be brought to Namibia for forced labour in cattle herding.”

Furthermore, the report notes that the government conducted multidisciplinary training for 35 criminal justice practitioners on identifying potential victims, referring them to protective services and legal support, as well as on prevention efforts and raising awareness of the crime.

A further 35 social workers and shelter service providers were trained on the provision of victim-centred protective services, while 140 immigration officials were provided with anti-trafficking training.

In partnership with an international organisation, government finalised a national referral mechanism (NRM) and standard operating procedures (SOPs) to guide frontline officials in the identification of victims and the provision of protective services.

It also finalised and disseminated the National Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Plan of Action, which included a comprehensive framework to address trafficking.

The labour ministry employed 77 labour and occupational health and safety inspectors, who were responsible for enforcing laws against child labour.

The government also increased anti-trafficking law-enforcement efforts. POCA criminalised sex trafficking and labour trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to 50 years' imprisonment or a fine not exceeding N$1 million.

The report said these penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with punishments prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.

“However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government did not finalise implementing regulations for the Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill, which are required for the law to be operational. It also did not adequately fund facilities equipped to shelter victims of trafficking.”

It has did not have a policy to encourage participation of trafficking victims in investigations.

The law provides for witness protection or other accommodations for vulnerable witnesses, which, in principle, should be available for trafficking victims.

However, 14 victims voluntarily assisted law-enforcement during the reporting period.

According to the report government requested information and offered repatriation assistance in a case involving five Namibian child trafficking victims exploited in the United Kingdom. While government had no formal policy to provide residence permits to foreign victims of trafficking, during previous reporting periods, officials made ad hoc arrangements for victims to remain in Namibia.

The report recommends that Namibia increases funding to civil society partners that provide accommodation and care to trafficking victims, to ensure they have adequate resources, and also increase efforts to investigate and prosecute traffickers.

“The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labour.”





ELLANIE SMIT

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