What we need to succeed in the fight against human trafficking

monique_esmerAuthor: Monique Emser
Research Associate, Department of Criminal and Medical Law, University of the Free State, South Africa

World Day of Social Justice – Ending human trafficking and forced labour: 20 February 2015

While there is evidence to suggest that some trafficking networks in South Africa are transnational, exhibiting professional and entrepreneurial business structures and methods of operation, reported cases of human trafficking in South Africa to date tend not to be affiliated with large, sophisticated criminal networks. Rather, they involve opportunistic individuals or families who are loosely coupled in temporary arrangements with criminal syndicates and co-conspirators in points of origin and transit.

Small-time traffickers and their co-conspirators often ‘piggy-back’ on existing criminal networks involved in migrant smuggling or drug trafficking, using established transportation routes to hide their activities. Highly organised trafficking networks, on the other hand, have evolved to such an extent that some even exhibit professional structures and employ legal companies as a front for their illegal activities.[1] It is this flexibility and mobility of organisation which makes trafficking networks so difficult to detect and dismantle.

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Human trafficking investigations and victim identification

monique_esmerAuthor: Monique Emser
Research Associate,  Department of Criminal and Medical Law, University of the Free State, South Africa

World Day of Social Justice –  Ending human trafficking and forced labour: 20 February 2015

The identification and investigation of human trafficking cases is perhaps one of the most challenging and complex activities facing law enforcement and prosecution in South Africa, and the African region.

Despite new laws, widespread awareness-raising, the formation of specialised multi-agency task teams, and training of key public officials, little inroads have been made in combating and preventing trafficking. Indeed, the number of reported cases and victims assisted remain low, while the prevalence of trafficking appears to be increasing. Human trafficking remains a hidden crime which obviates simple solutions.

Comprehensive and socially inclusive counter-trafficking legislation which is victim-centred is a vital component for effective counter-trafficking governance. While South African anti-trafficking legislation was signed into law in 2013, it is yet to commence. Human trafficking remains partially criminalised. Prosecution of the crime, and victim assistance, is reliant on a transitional and inchoate legal and policy framework. The slow pace to bring the new law into force has several implications for law enforcement, prosecutors and service providers who are beginning to confront the problem at both national and local levels.

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