UNODC Regional Representative, Ms Akisheva,
The representative from the EU Delegation, the Head of Cooperation, Mr Bernard Rey,
Representatives from civil society,
Representatives from various government departments and institutions,
Ladies and gentlemen, friends
Trafficking in Persons (TIP) is a global problem that has plagued many countries and accounts for some of the highest proceeds of crime after drugs and arms trafficking.
It is a serious crime and a grave violation of human rights. Every year, thousands of men, women and children fall into the hands of traffickers in their own countries and abroad. South Africa is affected by TIP as it has been found to be a country of origin, transit and destination of trafficking victims.
United Nations’ data tells us that people around the world are trafficked for sexual exploitation, forced labour, forced begging, forced marriage, as child soldiers, as well as for the removal of organs. Women make up 49% and girls 23% of all victims of trafficking.
Sexual exploitation is the most common form of exploitation (59%) followed by forced labour (34%). Most victims are trafficked within their countries’ borders and those trafficked abroad are moved to the richest countries.
Certain challenges are commonly faced by prosecutors and law enforcement agencies throughout the world in their efforts to combat the crime of TIP - which is often also called modern‐day slavery.
Prosecuting cases of TIP can be a difficult task for law enforcement officials due the clandestine nature of the crime. Cases are not always reported, as victims of trafficking are often cowed into silence by the offenders, and the general public may not be aware of their plight. Sometimes, tragically, victims are mistaken for criminals themselves, and face punishment instead of being offered help. Therefore, the need for training remains critical to improve the criminal justice capacity to successfully prosecute Trafficking in Persons (TIP).
TIP is a transnational crime – it crosses state borders and jurisdictions. It can also occur domestically, within national borders.
The offence is best understood as a collection of crimes bundled together, rather than a single culpable act; a criminal process rather than a criminal event. The need to conduct investigations or pursue criminals across international borders renders the work of prosecutors and law enforcement agencies particularly challenging.
The UN also tells us that there is international consensus around the need for a rights-based approach to the prevention and combating of trafficking. What does it mean, in practical terms, to take a human rights-based approach to trafficking?
A human rights-based approach is a conceptual framework based on international human rights standards that is operationally directed to promoting and protecting human rights.
It requires an analysis of the ways in which human rights violations arise throughout the trafficking cycle, as well as of States’ obligations under international human rights law. It needs to identify and redress the discriminatory practices that underlie trafficking, that maintain impunity for traffickers and that deny justice to their victims.
Under a human rights-based approach, every aspect of the national, regional and international response to trafficking is anchored in the rights and obligations established by international human rights law.
Earlier this year, the UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons emphasized the need for countries to move towards an approach that is centred on human rights and victims.
The Rapporteur’s recommendations offer a guide to countries in adopting a genuinely human rights-based approach, placing at its centre the protection of the rights of victims and potential victims.
The recommendations are also intended to move the anti-trafficking agenda from a purely criminal paradigm into a more comprehensive approach, tackling the systemic nature of exploitation and treating trafficking and exploitation as a social justice issue.
The Rapporteur stated that countries should demonstrate their political will and commitment, in specific and effective ways, to prevent and eradicate exploitation in all its forms.
Furthermore, the advice of civil society organizations and survivors should always be taken into consideration when designing and implementing policies aimed at preventing and combating trafficking, slavery, forced labour and exploitation.
I am pleased to be able to say that many of these recommendations are already included in South Africa’s anti-trafficking efforts.
The human rights of trafficked persons should be, and are, at the centre of all our efforts to prevent and combat trafficking and to protect, assist and provide redress to victims.
The Prevention and Combatting of Trafficking in Persons Act came into operation in August 2015. With this legislation our country has a comprehensive legal tool to combat trafficking in persons in all its forms.
Prior to the enactment of Act, trafficking in persons for sexual purposes was criminalised through other pieces of legislation such as the Sexual Offences Act and trafficking in children through the Children’s Act.
In compliance with South Africa’s international obligations - particularly the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (the Palermo Convention) - the current Trafficking in Persons Act was passed.
The main objective of the Act is to prevent, protect and prosecute.
Training is a vital part of the prevention and combating of TIP.
The current approach to combating and prosecuting traffickers includes preparing police and immigration officers (so-called frontline staff) to better spot potential trafficking victims through improved training.
Another strategy is the development of training materials aimed at those who are in sectors not typically associated with trafficking as a crime, such as forced labour (i.e. labour inspectors).
Strengthening the capacity of prosecutors to successfully prosecute TIP cases is also a key element in the fight to combat this scourge.
On-going judicial education of judges and magistrates also needs to receive more attention as well as capacity building, as judicial officers play an important role in the adjudication of trafficking in persons’ cases. No matter how well law enforcement role-players, investigators and prosecutors do in preparing trafficking in persons’ cases ultimately trafficking cases are adjudicated by judicial officers.
Furthermore, equipping social welfare authorities with the means to address the vulnerabilities of victims of trafficking and provide protective services is part and parcel of the obligations incurred through ratification of the Palermo Protocol.
These aspects are addressed in the manuals which we are launching today.
In order to strengthen training initiatives and harness a common understanding of the intent and spirit of the TIP Act, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development in partnership with United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has developed a Generic Integrated Training Manual on the TIP Act, with funding from the EU.
The Department has also, in partnership with International Office of Migrants (IOM) and funding by JTIP - which is the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons of the US Department of State - developed Integrated Victim Assistance Standard Operating Procedures that focus on the protection of the rights of Victims of Trafficking, to provide them with appropriate protection, care and attention, preventing them from secondary victimisation and providing them with appropriate steps for prevention of re-trafficking.
The IOM further assisted our Department with sector-specific training in all provinces.
South Africa recognizes the important role played by both the European Union and the JTIP in funding various anti-trafficking initiatives in South Africa.
South Africa also acknowledges the significant work that both the UNODC and IOM are playing in supporting the Government of South Africa to respond to trafficking in persons.
I also want to acknowledge Prof Julia Sloth-Nielsen and Adv Ooshara Sewpaul for their contributions to this process.
South Africa’s National Policy Framework on Trafficking in Persons is a guiding tool to ensure a uniform, coordinated and cooperative approach by all government departments, organs of state and institutions in dealing with matters relating to trafficking in persons.
We can only succeed if we work together in partnership – and these manuals are a significant product of this partnership.
I thank you.