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Deputy Minister of John Jeffery: Trafficking in Persons Regional Coordination and Data Collection Workshop

9 Dec 2019

Welcome and introductory remarks by the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, the Hon JH Jeffery, MP at a Trafficking in Persons Regional Coordination & Data Collection Workshop, held at the Sheraton Hotel, Pretoria, South Africa, 9 December 2019

Programme Director,
The UNODC Regional Representative for Southern Africa, Ms Zhuldyz Akisheva,
The US Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Ambassador John Cotton Richmond,
Representative of the SADC Secretariat, Mr Ipyana Musopole,
Representatives from SADC Member States,
Representatives from various government departments,
Distinguished guests, friends

Good morning to you all and, on behalf of the Government of South Africa, let me bid you all a very warm welcome.  
Bienvenue, bem vinda, karibu.

I am advised that we have representatives from Angola, Botswana, the Comoros, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. We are honoured to be hosting this event in our country and to be able to share experiences with countries in our region and to learn from a number of international experts.

I want to extend a special word of welcome to Ambassador John Cotton Richmond who will be joining us a little later this morning. Ambassador Richmond brings with him many years of experience in the fight against human trafficking. Prior to his appointment, in his roles as a federal prosecutor and co-founder of the Human Trafficking Institute, he assisted in empowering police and prosecutors to use victim-centred methods to ensure that trafficking survivors receive the support they need.

Trafficking in Persons is a violation of human rights and therefore we need to prevent and combat trafficking through the application of a human rights-based approach. Human trafficking and the smuggling of migrants exploit the most vulnerable in society. Often it is those who are poor, marginalised and desperate to find better working and living conditions that fall prey to unscrupulous traffickers and smugglers who see them not as human beings, but as objects and commodities to be used and sold.

We know that no country is immune to trafficking. We know that every country in the world can be either a source, transit or destination country for human trafficking. We also know that trafficking knows no borders – and what happens in our region affects all of us and how we respond, as a region, to prevent and combat trafficking.

According to the 2018 UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, most of the victims detected across the world are female; mainly adult women, but increasingly also girls. Most of the victims detected globally are trafficked for sexual exploitation, but in sub-Saharan Africa trafficking for forced labour is the most commonly detected form. Most of the victims detected in sub-Saharan Africa are also citizens of sub-Saharan African countries, which means they are being trafficked within their own countries or regions.

TIP is a complex crime and Government cannot fight it alone. Efforts to curb the crime and protect victims require the intervention of a multiplicity of stakeholders, including governmental departments and agencies, non-governmental organisations, civil society at large and international organisations. For us in South Africa, we have had to do a lot of preparatory work and build various structures to fight TIP – the fruits of which we are now starting to reap. As you know, our Parliament passed the Prevention and Combatting of Trafficking in Persons Act in 2013 and Government has since put structures in place at both national and provincial level to combat TIP, with a National Inter-sectoral Committee on Trafficking in Persons (NICTIP), comprising of national government departments such as Justice, Health, Home Affairs, International Relations, Labour, Social Development, Women, the South African Police Service, the National Prosecuting Authority as well as civil society organisations, having been established.  

Provincial Task Teams on TIP were established as well as a National and Provincial Rapid Response Teams to attend to pending TIP cases and provide support to victims and civil society bodies are represented in all these structures. We also have a comprehensive National Policy Framework which ensures a coordinated response among different stakeholders and addresses the 4 important pillars of anti-trafficking interventions, namely Prevention, Protection, Prosecution, and Partnership. In commemoration of the World Day against Trafficking in Persons, the South African Government in collaboration with UNODC and the SADC Secretariat deployed the SADC Regional TIP Data Collection System to collect data and to provide us with valuable information on TIP. Other measures to counter trafficking include general awareness campaigns to sensitise communities on TIP issues.

We also recently finalised the generic training manual on the TIP Act. The manual was developed under the auspices of the UNODC and is designed to complement sector specific training programmes. It is an extremely valuable tool in the fight against all forms of TIP. Sector specific training manuals for Social Development, Home Affairs, Labour and Health have also been recently finalised. South Africa has also adapted the SADC Tool in the national development process and we will roll out the national operational tool to the relevant government departments in the criminal justice system. This will enable South Africa to collect data in an integrated manner as per the legislative requirements.

Programme Director,
The SADC Secretariat and the UNODC collaborate on the implementation and coordination of the regional counter-trafficking response in the SADC region. As part of this cooperation, annual TIP focal persons workshops are held with the overall objective to strengthen information-sharing on efforts to prevent and respond to TIP in the region. We are confident that this workshop will further strengthen coordination amongst TIP focal points, especially in the area of data collection and sharing, through providing a platform for the sharing of information and discussion of matters of common interest. It will also provide representatives an opportunity to discuss and validate the main findings and recommendations of the Promising Practices and Lessons Learned Report on TIP National Strategic Frameworks and Action Plans (NSFAPs) and to discuss the modalities of the production of the next Regional TIP Statistical report.

Partnership really has been key to some of our recent successes in our anti-TIP efforts. Because of partnerships with government departments, civil society bodies, with other countries in the region and with international bodies, we have seen improved convictions and better support to victims of trafficking. I want to sincerely thank the UNODC and Ms Akisheva for their invaluable assistance and support for all our anti-trafficking efforts. Also to the various other international bodies which support us in our efforts to prevent and combat TIP, such as the SADC Secretariat and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). The IOM supports the South African government in the implementation, monitoring and reporting on progress of our anti-TIP efforts, as well as including training to personnel, capacity building, awareness raising, research, direct assistance to victims of trafficking (VoT) and providing technical support to government. From 2004 to date, IOM South Africa has assisted over 600 VoTs from 23 countries and facilitated the return of more than 1500 vulnerable migrants to their countries of origin under the Assisted Voluntary Return program. Vulnerable migrants include victims of trafficking, unaccompanied minors, abandoned women and children and stranded migrants, to name but a few.

Ladies and gentlemen,
A recent Human Rights Watch Report documents human rights abuses committed against Nigerian women and girls who are trafficked within and outside Nigeria as well as non-Nigerian women and girls who are trafficked into Nigeria. Most women and girls interviewed said they were trafficked by people they knew who preyed on their desperation and made them false promises of paid employment or education. They tell of how they were transported within and across national borders under life-threatening conditions, such as forcing them through the Sahara to Libya or to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea. On their journeys they saw or experienced death, rape, beatings, fear, theft, extortion, and lack of food and water. What strikes one the most when reading the report, are the words of a 28-year-old survivor when she says, “You cry until you cannot cry anymore.” She says: “You pray for death.”

I want to wish you all a very successful and productive workshop. We must do all we can to prevent and combat human trafficking. Know that the work you are doing today, and tomorrow and the day thereafter will save a human life.

I thank you.

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