Around the world, millions of victims of human trafficking are going unnoticed, many of them walk among the public in everyday life, on street corners and construction sites, or in factories and public venues.
This is according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) executive director Ghada Waly.
This, as the world observed World Day Against Trafficking in Persons on Sunday under the theme: “Reach every victim of trafficking, leave no one behind”.
According to data in UNODC’s Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2022, more than 50% of cases of human trafficking are brought forward by victims or their families. Authorities were struggling to detect and protect trafficking victims.
During the 2022/2023 period, 11 survivors of human trafficking accessed accredited shelter services in the Western Cape.
The Western Cape Department of Social Development (WCDSD) said most of the survivors were from Gauteng. The victims had responded to a promise for work in Cape Town and ended up being sexually exploited.
WCDSD is responsible for accrediting safe houses to provide a safe space for victims.
A social worker from the department, whose name is withheld as she counsels survivors of trafficking, said the most common form of trafficking in the province is sex trafficking.
“Many trafficking victims will tell you they did not even know that they were being trafficked. In one case I counselled a young woman from Johannesburg who was lured to Cape Town with the promise of a job in a beauty salon.
“Once she arrived here, her phone and belongings were taken away. She was forced to do sex work.”
Western Cape Social Development MEC, Sharna Fernandez said that contrary to popular belief, it was not just men w+who were the perpetrators. Women also participated in luring victims.
“Often victims are enticed by lucrative-looking employment opportunities. I implore people to be cautious.
“If you see a job advertisement that seems too good to be true, please exercise caution and ensure that they are legitimate opportunities. If you are unsure, rather be safe and walk away.”
Ilitha Labantu, an organisation that advocates for the rights of women and children, said they were deeply concerned about the high prevalence rate of human trafficking in South Africa.
“Over the past decade the nation has experienced a significant increase in the number of women and girls who have become victims of sex and drug trafficking.
“When we take a look at the statistics which indicate the number of kidnappings that have taken place in South Africa from April to December 2022, the police recorded 11 702 kidnappings.
“When we analyse this data majority of the victims are women and children, this paints a grim picture of the type of society that preys on its most vulnerable members.
“Human trafficking is a serious human rights issue and poses significant threats to our development, stronger action needs to be taken to ensure that we eliminate this scourge,” said Ilitha Labantu spokesperson, Siyabulela Monakali.