SADC developing protocol on trafficking in persons

SANF 20 no 29 by Nyarai Kampilipili
The SADC Secretariat is finalizing a legal instrument that will help intensify efforts to respond to the rising trafficking in persons, which is among the world’s fastest growing organized crimes.

Trafficking in Persons (TIP) usually involves the illegal movement of individuals from one country to another for purposes of exploitation.

Traffickers thrive on the vulnerabilities created by a number of factors, including poverty, conflicts and post-conflict instabilities, gender inequality, unemployment, economic instability and a general lack of opportunities.

Victims, mostly women and children, are often enticed to leave their homes, with false promises of jobs but are later subjected to sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery or even the removal of body organs.

The modus operandi used by syndicates includes false newspaper advertisements for jobs in towns or other countries.

In some cases, young children are kidnapped and sold to work in factories, plantations or shops; young men are forced to work in labour markets such as agriculture and textile industries for little or no pay; and babies or very young children are stolen for illegal adoption.

The crime of TIP is a public security concern around the world, and Southern African Development Community (SADC) Member States are not immune to this as they serve either as sources, transit routes or destinations for trafficked persons.

In 2014, through the Regional Political Cooperation Programme, the SADC Secretariat commissioned a research on TIP that aimed to provide up-to-date statistics on the trends and scope of human trafficking in the region, and to highlight effective practices in preventing and combating TIP, and identifying recommendations for interventions to combat the crime.

One of the recommendations of the study was the need to strengthen legislation and policy measures.

As a result, SADC is developing a regional protocol that specifically deals with the issues of human trafficking as well as TIP.

The protocol will be accompanied by Guidelines on Monitoring and Reporting on TIP, which will be used to measure implementation of the protocol.

To date, a total of 14 SADC Member States have set up anti-trafficking structures which help in supporting victims of trafficking.

These are Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

In addition, SADC Member States have developed national action plans and victim identification guidelines, and are implementing regulations and standard operating procedures referral mechanisms.

Capacity to respond to TIP has improved through the training of law enforcement officers, as well as the media and criminal justice practitioners at regional and national levels.

Furthermore, a publication by SADC on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Persons: Lessons from the SADC region highlights lessons from the region, which, according to the report, are critical for benchmarking and informing Member States and relevant stakeholders as they implement initiatives to effectively respond to the challenge of TIP, and the despicable effects that it has on societies and on countries in the region.

Vocational training, legal aid, rehabilitation programmes, reintegration in the family and in schools, support to attain relevant travel documents, economic support and repatriation services are also measures which Member States have adopted to assist victims of TIP.

The call to develop the TIP protocol was made by the SADC Ministerial Committee of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation during its meeting held in July 2017 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Efforts have since been initiated to draft the protocol, a process which is at an advanced stage as reported by the SADC Secretariat during the 2019 SADC Senior Officials and Gender Ministers meeting held in Windhoek, Namibia.

An update of the progress regarding the draft protocol was to be made during the 2020 SADC Senior Officials and Gender Ministers meeting in Tanzania. However, the meeting did not take place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The meeting was scheduled to be held ahead of the 40th SADC Summit, which is running under the theme “40 Years Building Peace and Security, and Promoting Development and Resilience in the Face of Global Challenges.”

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