It has become a truism to say that human trafficking is a crisis in Namibia. The contradiction right now is the fact that lawmakers remain steadfast that trafficking of persons is not as high as claimed while law enforcers stick to their point that the practice is rampant.
In Namibia’s defence, the country is mainly used as transit zone. This however indicates that the country’s security apparatus at border points need to be improved.
Human trafficking continues to be a complex occurrence for the country, as traffickers continue to conduct their activities underground.
Victims in Namibia are usually identified through the pursuit of certain legal documents and in some occasions may involve interrogations such as their intentions to get into the country, kind of work they are going to do, the age of individuals and the number of people entering the country are among the questions asked.
Namibia’s international profile indicates that it is a source and destination country for children, and to a lesser extent women, subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking. Some victims are initially offered legitimate work for adequate wages, but are then subjected to forced labour in urban centers 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.
In an interview The Patriot earlier this week, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare (MOGECW), Wilhencia Uiras highlighted that Namibia is still used by traffickers as a country of destination as well as a transit country for trafficking.
She explained that the number of cases that have been reported has shown that most victims who are trafficked involve members from vulnerable groups of society such as the marginalised San community who are often the most targeted group. However this is not limited to them only.
Uiras further explained that the Namibian Police, Law Enforcement Agencies, Persecutors, Courts, Traditional Authority and Civil Society Organisation as well as UNODC and International Organisation of Immigration (IOM) must all play their part in assisting victims who get trafficked.
“As a ministry we continue to work with a stakeholders whose mandate is aimed at protecting the citizens from any forms of violence of the human dignity” she said.
Namibia is in the process of passing the Combatting of Trafficking In Persons Bill, which is expected to tackle the situation.
She further added that awareness campaigns are being conducted to educate all Namibians, those trafficked and those that have not fallen victim to the danger of trafficking on how to detect it as well as report it to the police.
“Victims usually go through the trafficking protection program where they are taught on how to be aware of their surroundings and how to go about it. The process also includes psychological support for victims whom are later taken to a place of safety” she said.
In regards to raising awareness for human trafficking, Uiras explained that it can be done in various forms, as long as the targeted group or community understand the message well. What is important to note is that all people who are aiming to raise awareness, must be properly coordinated and should be liaising with the relevant authority in the areas where the campaign is intended to place.
In addition, Police Inspector General, Sebastian Ndeitunga explained that human trafficking i
s a concealed crime in Namibia which is difficult to deal with. However it cannot be denied that it does exist in the country.
“Namibia as a whole is used as an initiator by foreigners who come to Namibia to traffic, this usually happens from region to region – however it is not as rampant as many people think it is” he said.
He further explained that a human trafficking case was recently reported where babies with false documents were trafficked from Angola to South Africa through the Namibian border. The culprits were arrested upon arrival.“The South African police deported the culprits back to Angola where they will be dealt with accordingly” said Ndeitunga.He urged the community at large to be vigilant and to report any suspicious activities of such sorts to the police, as the police cannot combat it alone without the necessary assistance.
Namibians recently took to the streets for the #WalkForFreedom fundraising event which saw a group of males and females of all age groups walk in silence in honour of victims that have been trafficked and are still being trafficked.
#Walkforfreedom is held every year across hundreds of cities across 50 nations by the A21 which is a global anti-human trafficking organisation.
Namibia is ranked as one of the countries that do not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking and is placed in the Tier 2 Watch List by the United States Congress.The US State Department is mandated by Congress to rank countries based on efforts to fight human trafficking. The rankings are four-tiered. Tier 1 countries are those that meet anti-trafficking standards. Tier 2 do not but are making a significant effort to do so. Tier 2 is a warning for countries that may fall into Tier 3. Tier 3 comprises countries that do not meet the standards and are not making significant efforts to do so. Tier 3 countries are open to sanctions by the U.S. government.
According to the 2017 Trafficking in Persons Reporter, Namibia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so.
“The government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period, therefore, Namibia remained on Tier 2. The government demonstrated increasing efforts by identifying and referring to care more trafficking victims, by drafting a national mechanism to refer victims to care, and by establishing a multi-sectoral steering committee, the TIP National Coordinating Body (TNCB), and signing a memorandum of understanding to strengthen inter-ministerial coordination on trafficking cases,” indicated the report.
However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas, this includes, no conviction of any traffickers, government-funded shelters lacked personnel and resources to assist victims and government did not conduct awareness activities.
In 2016, the government conducted eight trafficking investigations, three for sex trafficking and five for forced labor, compared to seven in 2015. The government initiated prosecution in two trafficking cases of seven defendants, the same as in 2015.The government did not convict any traffickers, compared to one conviction in the previous reporting period. One prosecution initiated in 2014 resulted in acquittal during the reporting period.
The government continued implementing its training curriculum for new immigration officers and in-service personnel, with three of 14 regions trained in the reporting period. The government provided anti-trafficking training to an unknown number of law enforcement officers in three police colleges during the reporting period.
The curriculum included a new overview on identifying and assisting trafficking victims; however, the training was not comprehensive.
The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses.