Poverty linked to human trafficking in Namibia

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WINDHOEK – Due to lack of substantial evidence and experience of dealing with cases of human trafficking in Namibia, poverty, unemployment, lack of education and family instability were identified as some of the key factors pushing victims into the illicit trade that is so widespread it has assumed global proportions.

This is according to a 2016 report on Trafficking in Persons in the SADC Region which states trafficking in persons is a public security concern in SADC member states as it is around the world. 

The report also indicated that the impacts of this crime are far-reaching, affecting individuals, communities and the wider region thereby depreciating the socio-economic status of the region’s citizens to mere commodities, as well as impacting negatively on SADC’s peace and security agenda.

In Namibia, the report cited the demand for cheap and docile labour as having acted as a pull factor, while the commercial sex industry was also driving the trade in human trafficking.

Equally, it showed that poor border control, lack of surveillance and screening equipment, lack of trained personnel and weaknesses in the birth and identity registration system were identified as enabling trafficking in persons to take place.
The report stated that traffickers also exploited the opportunities presented by the cultural practice of sending children to live with other relatives, which further exposed these children to exploitative environments. 

Cultural practices that harm and disempower women and children, that include tolerance of violence against women and children, early marriage and parents’ expectations that children should take care of them were seen as facilitating trafficking in persons too. 

Further, the report indicated that girls were especially vulnerable to trafficking in persons in Namibia, largely for sexual exploitation. 

The poor, unemployed, orphaned and illiterate people were also viewed as the most vulnerable social groups to the crime of trafficking in persons. 

The report indicated that the growing number of child-headed households, largely due to AIDS-related deaths, further exposed communities, particularly orphans, to potentially being trafficked for various forms of exploitation. 
“Indigenous and remote communities, such as the San and Zemba communities, were not spared either. In fact, one of the cases identified by Nampol involved the potential trafficking of 12 men from the San community for labour exploitation on South African farms,” the report further stated.

In many reported cases, the report states traffickers promised their victims employment or education or secured influence of victims’ family members. 

In some cases, it shows that perpetrators were using social media applications such as Facebook and WhatsApp to recruit victims. 

It was also reported that traffickers sometimes abducted their victims. 
The report indicated that victims of trafficking in persons were largely subjected to forced labour and labour exploitation as domestic and farm workers, while some also encountered sexual exploitation. 

Previous research on trafficking in persons in Namibia suggested that victims were exploited in other sectors including charcoal production, construction, fishing and vending.

In response to this prevalent malady, SADC member states adopted the 10-year SADC Strategic Plan of Action on Combating Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (2009-2019) in order to have a comprehensive and coordinated response to the crime.