According to Interpol, Human trafficking in South Africa and the rest of the continent is continuing unabated despite the coronavirus, resulting in hundreds of victims unable to get assistance. Human trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbour or receipt of persons, using threat, coercion, abduction or fraud, for the purpose of exploitation.
South Africa serves as the transit and destination point for human trafficking. Despite travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, Interpol Secretary General, Jürgen Stock said the land route for human trafficking from the Horn of Africa to South Africa continues to show signs of worrying activity.
“Human trafficking, whether for sexual or labour exploitation, is already complex to detect in ‘normal’ times. The novel coronavirus pandemic has only pushed human trafficking deeper into the dark and its victims further from possible detection and assistance,” said Stock.
South Africa is a signatory to the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children, also known as the Palermo Protocol. This obligates the country to address human trafficking, enforce laws punishing offenders, and provide assistance to victims.
In 2013, South Africa signed into law the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act. The law says exploitation includes sexual exploitation, forced labour, child labour and all forms of slavery.
Trafficking routes differ and are irregular depending on the type of trafficking. Commenting on the topic, Mohamed Daghar, a researcher at the Institute for Security Studies notes that human trafficking routes in Africa are as complex as the trade itself.
“Human smuggling which is controlled by smugglers is different from human trafficking which is driven by traffickers. This is an important distinction to note especially when looking into routes used.In some cases, the routes of trafficking are the same as the routes of smuggling but not the other way round. With trafficking, routes differ and are irregular depending on the type of trafficking. However, they sometimes use smuggling routes,” said Daghar.
Daghar says that the following smuggling and trafficking routes currently exist in Africa;
– Eastern Route – from the Horn to Yemen and possibly onwards to Saudi Arabia.
– Southern Route – from the Horn of Africa to South Africa with Kenya as a transit point.
– Sinai Route – from the Horn to Israel through Egypt.
– Northern Route from both the Horn of Africa, Central Africa, West Africa and the Sahel to Europe.
The continued growth of human trafficking on the continent has also resulted in actions from the African Union (AU) in an effort to subvert the human crisis.Sabelo Mbokazi, Head of the African Union’s labour, employment, migration and social affairs department, said the AU has prioritized the issue of combating human trafficking.
“We have identified North Africa as one of the active corridors where the scourge has increased therefore the AU has established what is called the AU-Horn of Africa initiative, this is to work with countries in the horn of Africa and come up with policies that can help combat human trafficking. We are also establishing Africa’s operation centre in Khartoum Sudan, this centre will collect data from across the continent,” said Mbokazi.