Traffickers cash in on Covid-19

Global slavery is a brutal criminal enterprise, and traffickers will not hesitate to cash in on the Covid-19 chaos, relations minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah has warned.

04 August 2020 | Social Issues

JANA-MARI SMITH

WINDHOEK



Namibia has joined the global community that is calling on countries to remain vigilant and proactive as the world health crisis ravages economies and exposes increasing numbers of vulnerable people to the threat of human traffickers.

“Traffickers feed on the desperation of their victims and use different kinds of trickery to mislead people,” international relations minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah warned on the commemoration of the World Day Against Trafficking last week.

She said the Covid-19 pandemic has raised “many social challenges, including that of people losing their jobs”.

“This may cause vulnerable and desperate members of society to become prey.”

Nandi-Ndaitwah underlined that global slavery is a brutal criminal enterprise, and traffickers will not hesitate to cash in on the chaos, including increasing poverty and hunger, unleashed by the pandemic.

“Traffickers out there are selling people into slavery in exchange for money.

Traffickers do not care and they don't feel any guilt or remorse,” she warned. She said Namibia should double its efforts “to reach out to people and to raise awareness of what human trafficking is”.



Hard work

Namibia's determination to scale up anti-trafficking measures over the past five years earned it a top ranking in the recently published annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report.

Namibia is the only country in Africa to achieve a Tier 1 ranking this year, joining 34 nations globally, in a nod to the enactment of its anti-trafficking law last year and widespread training of frontline responders, as well as increased awareness campaigns and criminal prosecutions.

United States ambassador to Namibia, Lisa Johnson, said the achievement shows “firm commitment to combatting human trafficking and years of hard work by so many people”.

She underlined that over the years, Namibia has become a “strong partner and a global leader in combatting this terrible crime”.

Johnson, however, underlined that all countries, including Tier 1 countries such as the United States, still have room for improvement to tackle the scourge of human slavery within their borders.



Growing concern

“While all the southern Africa region is affected by this crime, the number of reported and detected cases is slowly but surely picking up in Namibia,” Namibian police major-general Oscar Peter Embubulu said at the commemoration last week.

He said although the numbers are “not yet alarming, there is a growing concern”. The Namibian police are currently investigating 48 cases of human trafficking, compared to 35 cases reported overall in 2019, Embubulu added. On a positive note, he said the trend of trafficking of children between Angola and Namibia for forced labour as cattle herders or domestic workers has declined following a joint anti-trafficking operation.

He added that the Covid-19 pandemic - on a positive note - has also contributed to the ongoing decline in the movement of people between the borders.



Challenges

Among the challenges still faced in Namibia, the police official said, are lack of sufficient and proper facilities to house victims of human trafficking and their families, lack of resources to carry out educational programmes, as well as lack of resources to train personnel.

Moreover, in cross-border investigations, the police often face delays in obtaining evidence on time.

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