The Namibian police have cautioned the public to be vigilant, as they have unearthed a possible human trafficking syndicate that lures young Namibians to the Middle East under the guise of job opportunities.
It is suspected that so far, 26 Namibians between the age of 27 and 40 have been human trafficked to Oman.
The police reported that an investigation was launched last month in which various people were questioned – and among those people are those who almost fell victim to the syndicate but they somewhat managed to escape.
“Others were not as lucky, as they went through with the plan and never returned – and their whereabouts are unknown,” the statement reads.
Of the 26, only 17 names were submitted to the Namibian police.
The victims allegedly engaged a facilitator in Namibia, who enticed them into accepting job offers abroad.
“Trips to these countries, including work visas, can cost up to N$40 000, which is mostly covered by the facilitators but to be paid back once employed on the other side,” the police said in a statement last week.
“Disappointingly, upon arrival, the promised salary, as well as living and working conditions are normally not as promised, causing disputes between the employee and the employer. Employees are not allowed to come back until they payback. Victims are then forced into exploitative and even life-threatening situations.”
It was further reported that the majority use truck drivers, who, upon a fee transport them to neighbouring countries, especially South Africa, where further arrangements are in place to board planes to Oman.
Disappointingly, upon arrival in Oman, the promised salary changes to a lesser amount, equivalent to N$3 000 or less.
The misunderstanding between employer and employee inevitably leads to disputes that include poor working and living conditions, abnormal working hours, and ill-treatment by the employer – to mention but a few.
Ultimately, the police said the employees demand to return to Namibia but their passports and mobile phones are confiscated, and the employers demand the payback of the funds used to purchase the ticket and visa.
In an interview with New Era, police chief Sebastian Ndeitunga said the investigation is ongoing, and he appealed to the public to report all suspicious incidents of this nature to their nearest police for further investigation.
“As a nation, we cannot allow our women to be lured into these supposed lucrative criminal industries. Huge amounts of money are generated by traffickers, and these so-called agents are selling our women to where they are exploited through hard labour,” he stated.
In his statement, he also said human trafficking is generally difficult to detect because of the psychological effects it has on the victims.
“It is a crime where the victims are deceived or forced into exploitative and even life-threatening situations; therefore, we need to stand together to save and protect our society from these happenings,” he said.
In addition, Ndeitunga told this publication that cases of human trafficking are also reported at the Angola-Namibia border, with traffickers using the Namibian route to transport people to other countries.
“Signs of human trafficking are detected between the Angola-Namibian borders – but in many recent cases, people being trafficked are not Namibians; the perpetrators have been passing through our borders to transport people to other countries,” he said.
In a different case, Ndeitunga said there a child was trafficked to Angola from Namibia; however, through the joint investigation between the two countries, the child has been brought home.
So far, 77 cases of human trafficking were reported to the Namibian Police Force from April 2010 to March 2022.
Twenty-eight cases are under investigation, 26 are finalised, 17 are still on the court roll and six cases are pending.
According to the 2018 Global Slavery Index, as of the year 2016, there was an estimate of 40.3 million individuals across the globe in modern slavery, which is the driving force behind human trafficking.
This figure represents 5.4 victims of modern slavery for every 1 000 people in the world.
Modern slavery is prevalent in Africa, and there is no African country that has so far met the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking.