Factors inhibiting the identification and investigation of human trafficking cases

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

Law enforcement efforts have failed to keep pace with the mutable phenomenon of human trafficking despite the fact that it is regarded as the fastest growing and second most profitable criminal enterprise after drug trafficking.

The biggest challenge facing law enforcement in human trafficking cases is finding victims and their traffickers in the first place, since human trafficking involves the movement and concealment of victims.

Victims of human trafficking often do not self-identify as such. There are numerous reasons for this. Some victims may have consciously engaged in illicit activities, such as undocumented migration into the Republic or engaging in sex work. In such cases, ‘victims are unlikely to report their victimisation to the police or seek help from service providers.’[1] Where trafficking occurs within diaspora communities, self-identification and reporting to the police are even lower.

Others are too traumatised by their experiences and remain in denial. Distrust of law enforcement, fear of retaliation by traffickers, a lack of understanding of basic rights, are further inhibiting factors in relation to victim cooperation and investigation.

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