Durban - South Africa is a prime destination for international human trafficking syndicates which use it as a hub to traffic people to and from the country, according to global non-profit organisation A21.
It suspects that a huge Nigerian syndicate might be active across the country because most of the perpetrators are from Nigeria, but stresses that they also include other nationalities like South African, Bangladeshi, Vietnamese, Indian, Chilean and Congolese.
Speaking ahead of its annual Walk For Freedom awareness marches, which take place around the world on October 15, A21 said South Africa was a transit and destination country for victims of trafficking.
“Our country has become a prime destination for international trafficking syndicates to operate. Currently, stats show that only 1% of all victims are ever rescued,” said the organisation’s local spokesperson, Katie Modrau.
She said in most cases South Africa was the final destination for victims trafficked from other countries, but traffickers also used routes throughout the country to transit victims from the African continent to Europe and North America.
While victims included locals and foreigners, conditions such as high levels of unemployment and the lack of access to higher education for many made South Africans vulnerable to trafficking, said Modrau.
At the same time, foreigners from countries where there were also systemic issues were often lured to South Africa under the false pretence that there were plenty of economic opportunities available.
Modrau has called on South Africans to support their global Walk For Freedom in which thousands of people will take to the streets in hundreds of cities across the globe.
Participants will walk in single file, holding posters and handing out flyers to inform citizens about human trafficking and how to end it, she said.
Several marches are planned across South Africa, including Durban, Cape Town, Stellenbosch and George.
Modrau said human trafficking came in various guises, such as sexual exploitation/trafficking, bonded labour, forced labour, involuntary domestic servitude, child soldiers and organ harvesting.
She said calls to their National Human Trafficking Hotline number, 0800 222 777, revealed that men, women and children were recruited for all these types of trafficking, but most cases they had encountered involved sexual exploitation/trafficking, child trafficking, labour trafficking and domestic servitude.
The organisation said one of the best tips to safeguard against human trafficking was practising online safety and being aware of who you and your loved ones and friends communicate with and what they post online.
It said many victims were recruited through false job opportunities and therefore job applicants must research companies before going to their interviews. They can also contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline before the interview to ensure the job opportunity is legitimate.
Anyone interested in participating in the global campaign against trafficking can register to participate or host a walk by visiting www.A21.org/Walk.
The Independent on Saturday