Human trafficking: The modern form of slavery eating up East Africa

Sunday September 1 2013

An illustration of human trafficking. Reports

An illustration of human trafficking. Reports indicate that the East African region is threatened by the vice.  

By Bamuturaki Musinguzi

The inhuman slave trade could have been abolished decades ago but modern forms of slavery continue to exist in the shadows and beyond the reach of the law – putting millions at risk.

According to the latest annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report by the US State Department, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi are among the nations that remain sources and destination countries for men, women, and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking.

The “Trafficking In Persons Report, June 2013” indicates that the number of global convictions of human traffickers is up about 20 per cent. While identified conventions stand at 4,746.
“Sometimes it makes sense to look at an issue by the numbers. In the last year of the global fight against modern slavery, hundreds of new partners - from law firms and local governments to foundations and tech companies - have enlisted in the effort,” Luis CdeBaca, the Ambassador-at-Large to monitor and combat trafficking in persons, writes in the report.

“Dozens of modern anti-trafficking laws have been passed, within the United States and around the world. And millions of dollars have been pledged to this worthy cause,” CdeBaca adds.

“Impressive figures, but the number that best characterizes the progress of the anti trafficking movement is sadly still very small. Because reporting is uneven, we can’t say for certain how many victims of trafficking are identified each year. This report estimates that, based on the information governments have provided, only around 40,000 victims have been identified in the last year,” CdeBaca said.

He contends: “In contrast, social scientists estimate that as many as 27 million men, women, and children are trafficking victims at any given time. That means we’re bringing to light only a mere fraction of those who are exploited in modern slavery. That number, and the millions who remain unidentified, are the numbers that deserve our focus.”

“So as this movement grows and gains momentum, the reality is that most of this crime still occurs in the shadows, unseen and beyond the reach of law; that millions of victims aren’t getting the support and services they need; that too few traffickers are being put out of business and behind bars; and that their victims are not moving on with the lives they choose for themselves as empowered survivors,” CdeBaca observes.

The report places each country onto one of four tiers based on the extent of their governments’ efforts to comply with the “minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking” found in Section 108 of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000.

In ‘Tier 1’ are countries whose governments fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. Each year, governments need to demonstrate appreciable progress in combating trafficking to maintain a Tier 1 ranking.

In the ‘Tier 3’ category are countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.

Uganda
According to the report Uganda is a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.
Uganda ranks in ‘Tier 2.’ In this category are countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.

The report shows that Ugandan children as young as seven are exploited in forced labor within the country. Forced child labor occurs in agriculture, cattle herding, mining, stone quarrying, brick making, car washing, scrap metal collection, bars, restaurants, and the domestic service sector; girls and boys are also exploited in prostitution.

Uganda’s Interpol office reported that Ugandan women are trafficked to India, Afghanistan, Indonesia, and the United Arab Emirates. During the reporting period, Ugandan trafficking victims were identified in the United Kingdom, Greece, Poland, Iraq, Egypt, Qatar, South Sudan, Kenya, China, South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, and the United States; in one case, four Ugandan men were taken to China, where they were forced into prostitution. A Ugandan was arrested in Spain in 2012 for allegedly trafficking Nigerian women into forced prostitution.

The report observes that the Ugandan government does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Following creation of its Counter-Trafficking In Persons office (CTIP) and anti trafficking taskforce in early 2012, the government began drafting a national action plan and launched a nationwide awareness campaign.

“In addition, the government prosecuted an increased number of trafficking offenders during the year; however, for the third consecutive year, the government failed to convict a forced labor or sex trafficking offender under Uganda’s 2009 Prevention of Trafficking in Persons (PTIP) Act,” it notes.
A report by Uganda’s Honorary Consul in Kuala Lumpur in February 2012 indicated that more than 600 Ugandan women were trapped in Malaysia’s sex industry.

Kenya
Kenya that is placed on the ‘Tier 2 Watch List’ is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Within the country, Kenyan children are forced to labor in domestic service, agriculture, fishing, cattle herding, street vending, and begging.

Children are also exploited in prostitution throughout Kenya, including in the coastal sex tourism industry, in eastern khat cultivation areas, and near Nyanza’s gold mines.
According to the report, women, “beach boys,” and sometimes a child’s own parents push children into prostitution in coastal areas to receive payments from tourists. Kenyans voluntarily migrate to other East African nations, South Sudan, Europe, the United States, and the Middle East - particularly Saudi Arabia, but also to Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Lebanon, and Oman in search of employment, where they are at times exploited in domestic servitude, massage parlors and brothels, or forced manual labor.
Gay and bisexual Kenyan men are lured from universities with promises of overseas jobs, only to be forced into prostitution in Qatar and the UAE. Children from Burundi, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda are subjected to forced labor and prostitution in Kenya.
“The Government of Kenya does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the reporting period, the government’s “children’s officers” - social welfare officials who address children’s issues - continued efforts to identify and protect child trafficking victims throughout the country,” the report observes.

Kenya’s Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act went into effect in October 2012; “however, the government did not launch and implement its national plan of action, convene the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Advisory Committee, take tangible action against trafficking complicity among law enforcement officials, provide shelter and other protective services for adult victims, monitor the work of overseas labor recruitment agencies, or provide wide scale anti-trafficking training to its officials, including police, labor inspectors, and children’s officers.”

“It held few traffickers accountable for their crimes in comparison to the significant number of child trafficking victims identified. Therefore, Kenya is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for the second consecutive year as it did not demonstrate evidence of increased efforts to combat human trafficking. The government’s efforts remained uncoordinated and lacked strong oversight, creating an environment conducive to trafficking…,” the report adds.

Tanzania
“Tanzania is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. The incidence of internal trafficking is higher than that of transnational trafficking, and is usually facilitated by family members, friends, or intermediaries who offer assistance with education or finding lucrative employment in urban areas,” the report says.
Tanzania is placed on the ‘Tier 2 Watch List.’ This list includes countries where governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.

According to the report the exploitation of young girls in domestic servitude continues to be Tanzania’s largest human trafficking problem, though cases of child trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation are increasing along the Kenya-Tanzania border. Girls are exploited in sex trafficking in tourist areas within the country. Boys are subjected to forced labor, primarily on farms, but also in mines, in the informal commercial sector, in the sex trade, and possibly on small fishing boats.
Smaller numbers of Tanzanian children and adults are trafficked - often by other Tanzanians - into conditions of domestic servitude, other forms of forced labor, and sex trafficking in other countries, including Mozambique, Ethiopia, South Africa, Uganda, Yemen, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, the United States, France, and possibly other African, Middle Eastern, and European countries.

“The Government of Tanzania does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government convicted four international labour traffickers and continued to refer identified child trafficking victims to NGOs to receive care. In one successful case, it awarded four adult victims financial compensation from fines imposed upon a convicted trafficker. However, it failed to adequately punish offenders with sentences commensurate to the seriousness of the crimes committed, and there were reports that Tanzanian diplomats failed to assist Tanzanian citizens exploited abroad…,” the report observes.

“The Tanzanian government made modest anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. The 2008 Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act outlaws all forms of trafficking and prescribes punishments of one to 10 years’ imprisonment, a fine, or both; penalties which are sufficiently stringent, but not commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. However, a provision allowing offenders to pay a fine in lieu of serving prison time allows for a penalty that is not proportionate to the crime and such a fine does not provide an adequate deterrent to perpetrators of trafficking.,” it adds.

Rwanda
Rwanda, which is also placed on ‘Tier 2 Watch List’ is a source and, to a lesser extent, transit and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Rwandan girls and, to a lesser extent, boys are exploited in domestic servitude within the country; some of these children experience nonpayment of wages and physical or sexual abuse within their employer’s household.

According to the report, older females offer vulnerable younger girls room and board, eventually pushing them into prostitution to pay for their expenses. In limited cases, trafficking is facilitated by women who supply other women or girls to clients, or by loosely organized prostitution networks, some operating in secondary schools and universities. Brothel owners reportedly supply girls in prostitution to clients staying at hotels.

The Government of Rwanda does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. It enacted a revised penal code, convicted two trafficking offenders, and undertook several investigations, resulting in the apprehension of suspected traffickers and the rescue of victims.

In June 2012, the government promulgated its new penal code - the first since 1977 - which criminalizes trafficking in persons under a variety of articles, mostly contained in Chapter 8.
The government referred child trafficking victims to protective services at a police hospital, opened four additional one-stop centers at public district hospitals - all of which screen for trafficking victimization and provide services to victims - and increased its diplomatic engagement to ensure the return of trafficked Rwandans from South Africa and East Asia.

Nonetheless, the police continued to hold some trafficking victims in detention without being charged, and acknowledged the need for continued law enforcement training in victim identification and case investigation.

“As the government provided logistical support to M23, a group that committed trafficking crimes during the reporting period through forced or fraudulent recruitment of children and men, Rwanda is placed on Tier 2 Watch List,” the report concludes.

Burundi
Placed on the ‘Tier 2 Watch List’ Burundi is a source country for children and possibly women subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Children and young adults are coerced into forced labor on plantations or small farms in southern Burundi, small-scale menial labor in gold mines in Cibitoke, labor-intensive tasks such as collecting river stones for construction in Bujumbura, or informal commerce in the streets of larger cities.

“Some traffickers are the victims’ family members, neighbours, or friends who recruit them for forced labor under the pretext of assisting with education or employment opportunities. Some families are complicit in the exploitation of children and adults with disabilities, accepting payment from traffickers who run forced street begging operations,” the report says.

“Children in domestic servitude in private homes or working in guest houses and other entertainment establishments are coerced - with threats of being fired - into committing sex acts for their employers or clients. Children are also fraudulently recruited for domestic work and later exploited in prostitution,” it adds.

The report adds: “The Government of Burundi does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these measures, the government did not demonstrate evidence of overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts over the previous period; therefore, Burundi is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a third consecutive year…”

The Government of Burundi failed to vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses in 2012. It arrested two suspected offenders during the reporting period, but did not initiate any prosecutions or achieve any trafficking convictions from prosecutions initiated during previous reporting periods.
The government failed to complete its draft comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation intended to rectify this and other gaps in existing laws.

However, in July 2012, in partnership with UN Office on Drugs and Crime, government stakeholders reviewed the draft, which now is in the office of the first Vice President for final editing; it must then be sent to the General Secretariat to be scheduled for debate in the council of ministers before being sent to parliament for debate and passage.

THE NUMBERS

40,000: The number of victims of human trafficking who have been identified in the past one year in the region.

2012: The year in which a Ugandan was arrested in Spain for allegedly trafficking Nigerian women into forced prostitution.

10: The 2008 Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act outlaws all forms of trafficking and prescribes punishments of one to 10 years’ imprisonment, a fine, or both.

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