Norway extends support to victims of internal trafficking in Southern Africa

By | 19 November 2007

“There are situations where you have to force girls by using rape, abuse or torture. When she begins to fear for her life, she stops resisting and starts working…”

This quote, from a human trafficker and brothel-owner, were the beginning words of Ms May-Elin Stener, Chargé d’Affaires of the Norwegian Embassy, when she reiterated the commitment of the Government of Norway to combat human trafficking in Southern Africa.

This was during a press briefing held on 16 November 2007 at the offices of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Pretoria, South Africa.

She also disclosed that Norway is extending assistance to thousands of South Africans who are caught in human trafficking within their own borders. This comes as a response to a mounting number of reports received by IOM, especially on its hotline, about South Africans trafficked within South Africa, and the shortage of specialised services for such victims within the republic.

Ms. Stener noted her satisfaction with IOM’s counter-trafficking interventions in the region.

“Yesterday, some of us from the embassy went for site visits to see for ourselves how the work is conducted. We visited shelters for victims in Johannesburg and Pretoria, saw examples of awareness-raising on billboards in Hillbrow, met with South African officials from National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the police who are involved in the support of victims and prosecution of perpetrators behind the crime. I met without exception dedicated personnel with wish and ability to make a difference, and I have after the visits been even more convinced that the work SACTAP is doing have a significant impact.”

Mariam Khokar, Programme Manager for IOM’s Southern African Counter-Trafficking Assistance Programme (SACTAP), reported that hundreds of victims of cross-border trafficking have been assisted and rehabilitated in Southern Africa, especially in South Africa. These persons come from Thailand (115), Democratic Republic of Congo (35), India (12), China (11), South Africa (8), Zimbabwe (8), Mozambique (7), Nigeria (3), Angola (1), Bulgaria (1), Cameroon (1), Kenya (1), Philippines (1), Romania (1) Rwanda (1), Somalia (1) and Swaziland (1).”

Ms. Stener added: “We are now pleased to announce that with our continued financial and strategic support, IOM will be able to put its expertise and considerable experience to the service of internally trafficked persons, not only in South Africa, but also in the entire region.”

SACTAP was commenced in 2004 initially to respond to the trafficking of women and children in Southern Africa for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Ms Stener notes that since the inception of SACTAP, a lot of progress has been made in raising public awareness, in useful research, and above all, in assisting victims of this heinous practice.

At least 1500 law enforcement officials across the region identify cases of human trafficking, to assist victims, and to lay charges against traffickers. IOM has established a toll-free hotline, and continues to run national and regional information campaigns against human trafficking.

“At the same time there are no easy solutions”, Ms Stener noted. “Because the reasons for human trafficking are so complex, the measures taken have to be numerous and wide-ranging. A profound prerequisite to stop human trafficking is that there is political will to give it priority. That means to ratify the Palermo Protocol against human trafficking, put domestic legislation into force, ensure the capacity among the police and prosecution authority to detect and prosecute the persons behind the crimes and help the victims to get a new and better life.”

Between 2004-2008, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs will, through the Norwegian Embassy in Pretoria, donate 35 millions Norwegian kroner (6,6 million USD) to IOM’s fight against human trafficking in Southern Africa.

Norway will also support the efforts of other counter-trafficking stakeholders such as United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and NGOs such as the Southern Africa Network against Trafficking and Abuse of Children (SANTAC).

This comes as part of Norway’s ongoing 2006-2009 Plan of Action to combat human trafficking, illustrating the Government of Norway’s strong commitment to the global fight.

“Our goal is no less than a total eradication.” said Ms Stener. “We are especially anxious to protect children less than 18 years against all forms of abuse. Trafficking in children violates the inherent right of every child to grow up in a protective environment and the right to be free from all forms of violence.”

Speaking at the briefing, IOM’s Regional Representative for Southern Africa, Hans-Petter Boe noted the commitment of IOM to continue to combat human trafficking with the help of donors like the Government of Norway. “We encourage the South African public to call IOM’s toll-free helpline to report suspected cases of human trafficking, or to seek help. Professional and specialised help is available to men, women and children who are trafficked within the borders of South Africa or across borders.”

IOM research indicates that trade in human beings for the purposes of sexual exploitation is flourishing in South Africa, with women being trafficked to South Africa from South East Asia, Eastern Europe, as well as other African countries like Mozambique and Malawi. South African men, women and children are being trafficked abroad to places like Macau and Ireland for sexual exploitation and forced labour. Another great concern is the trafficking of South African children within South African cities for forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation.

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