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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