Trafficking in persons

Trafficking in persons and the smuggling of migrants are distinct crimes. The lines between the two may often be blurred though especially when they occur in mixed migration flows. A person may start their journey as an asylum seeker, for example, before seeking the help of smugglers and then being exploited as a victim of trafficking, while in need of refugee protection. According to the SADC regional statistical report (2004-2016), approximately 1,217 victims of TIP were officially reported to law enforcement agencies in the SADC region during the period 2004- 2016/7. It is believed that this is just a small proportion of cases of trafficking in persons as a number of cases are not identified and, therefore, not reported. This is largely because of the complex and hidden nature of the crime. There are also cases where victims are rescued but are not interested in cooperating with law enforcement for purposes of investigation and prosecution of the offence.

According to the UNODC global TIP Report (2020), most of the detected trafficking victims in Sub-Saharan Africa continue to be children, at about 60 per cent, with both boys and girls detected in significant proportions. However, analysing the data by geographical areas shows that child trafficking continues to be more commonly detected in West Africa than in the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa.  East and Southern African countries continue to detect larger shares of adults. East African countries have detected more adult males, while Southern African countries detect more women. Most of the victims detected in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2018 were trafficked for forced labour. In spite of differing capacities to detect, record and report victims, the proportions of the different forms of exploitation remain largely the same in West, East and Southern Africa, with a predominance of victims of trafficking for forced labour in all areas.

Most traffickers in this subregion continue to be males, in proportions broadly similar with global patterns. Countries in West Africa reported the highest share of females investigated/arrested for, prosecuted for and/or convicted of trafficking. Conversely, countries in Southern Africa reported the highest share of male offenders.  Countries in East Africa reported that around 70 per cent of the offenders were males. Victims from Sub-Saharan Africa were detected in, or repatriated from, countries in most sub-regions across the globe, making it a relevant region of origin for detected cases of trafficking in persons globally. Victims from all areas of Africa were detected in Western and Southern Europe in significant flows. Victims from West and East Africa were frequently detected in North Africa and the Middle East, including in the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Victims from West and East Africa were also detected in East Asia and North America. Most of the victims detected in Sub-Saharan Africa are either citizens of the country of detection or citizens of other Sub-Saharan African countries. Furthermore, trafficked victims are generally trafficked within the same geographical area. For example, West African countries detect only victims from West Africa or victims who were domestically trafficked.  Countries in East Africa detect foreign victims from other countries in East Africa, with very small numbers from West and Southern Africa along with victims trafficked from South Asia. The picture is similar in Southern Africa in terms of cross-border trafficking, including some victims trafficked from West and East Africa and from Asia.

The number of convictions per 100,000 people recorded in Sub-Saharan Africa has been generally lower compared to the rest of the world. In addition, over the last 15 years, the conviction rate per 100,000 has been fluctuating between 0 and 1 persons, with no marked increase recorded. The number of victims detected per 100,000 in Sub-Saharan African countries has increased since the United Nations Trafficking in Persons Protocol entered into force. The number of detections, however, remains among the lowest compared to other regions.

UNODC seeks to to support RECS and member states in their capacity to address and combat Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants through coordinated action around the four pillars : prevention, protection, prosecution and partnership. In addition, UNODC supports Member States in their reporting obligations on UNTOC on their action to address Transnational Organised Crime.

UNODC SAMM main activities will be through the cross-cutting programme areas of data collection and analysis, legislative drafting and capacity building which form the framework for the Regional Programme’s areas of intervention.  The project will support Member states to:

  1. align national laws to regional and international legislative instruments on TIP and SOM
  2. Enhance the capacity of their nationals to implement the legislation and obligations from the instruments. This includes development and imolimentation of strategies and (national) Action Plans.
  3. enhance the capacity of practitioners (Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Officers) to address Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants
  4. Support enhanced research and data collection on Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants. This includes linkages with other Transnational organised crime and other opportunistic crimes like labour exploitation.
  5. Support member states capacituies to collect, record and analyse data through the SADC TIP Data Collection System. This includes provision of requisite tools and equipment.
  6. Support intelligence driven operations in the SADC targeting transnational organized crime
  7. Enhance networks of member states and professionals (criminal justice and law enforcement) to enable enhanced cooperation
  8. Supporting the prevention of TIP and SOM through awareness raising initiatives targeting vulnerable communities in Member States

This support responds to the mandate offered to UNODC through the UNTOC Protocols against Trafficking in Persons and with clear momentum provided by the UN Global Compact of Migration Plan of Action.

GCM Objective 10 “Prevent, combat and eradicate Trafficking in Persons in the context of international migration” asserts that Member States commit to take legislative or other measures to prevent, combat and eradicate trafficking in persons in the context of international migration by strengthening capacities and international cooperation to investigate, prosecute and penalize trafficking in persons, discouraging demand that fosters exploitation leading to trafficking, and ending impunity of trafficking networks. We further commit to enhance the identification and protection of, and assistance to, migrants who have become victims of trafficking, paying particular attention to women and children.

To realize this commitment, Member States may draw from the following actions:

  1. Promote ratification of, accession to and implementation of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime;
  2. Promote the implementation of the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons22 and take into consideration relevant recommendations of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Toolkit to Combat Trafficking in Persons and other relevant UNODC documents when developing and implementing national and regional policies and measures relating to trafficking in persons;
  3. Monitor irregular migration routes which may be exploited by human trafficking networks to recruit and victimize smuggled or irregular migrants, in order to strengthen cooperation at the bilateral, regional and cross-regional levels on prevention, investigation and prosecution of perpetrators, as well as on identification and protection of, and assistance to, victims of trafficking in persons;
  4. Share relevant information and intelligence through transnational and regional mechanisms, including on the modus operandi, economic models and conditions driving trafficking networks, strengthen cooperation between all relevant actors, including financial intelligence units, regulators and financial institutions, to identify and disrupt financial flows associated with trafficking in persons, and enhance judicial cooperation and enforcement so as to ensure accountability and end impunity;
  5. Apply measures that address the particular vulnerabilities of women, men, girls and boys, regardless of their migration status, who have become or are at risk of becoming victims of trafficking in persons and other forms of exploitation, by facilitating access to justice and safe reporting without fear of detention, deportation or penalty, focusing on prevention, identification, appropriate protection and assistance, and addressing specific forms of abuse and exploitation;
  6. Ensure that definitions of trafficking in persons used in legislation, migration policy and planning, as well as in judicial prosecutions, are in accordance with international law, in order to distinguish between the crimes of trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants;
  7. Strengthen legislation and relevant procedures to enhance prosecution of traffickers, avoid criminalization of migrants who are victims of trafficking in persons for trafficking-related offences, and ensure that the victim receives appropriate protection and assistance, not conditional upon cooperation with the authorities against suspected traffickers;
  8. Provide migrants who have become victims of trafficking in persons with protection and assistance, such as measures for physical, psychological and social recovery, as well as measures that permit them to remain in the country of destination, temporarily or permanently, in appropriate cases, facilitating victims’ access to justice, including redress and compensation, in accordance with international law;
  9. Create national and local information systems and training programmes which alert and educate citizens, employers, as well as public officials and law enforcement officers, and strengthen capacities to identify signs of trafficking in persons, such as forced, compulsory or child labour, in countries of origin, transit and destination;
  10. Invest in awareness-raising campaigns, in partnership with relevant stakeholders, for migrants and prospective migrants on the risks and dangers of trafficking in persons, and provide them with information on preventing and reporting trafficking activities