Picture: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town - Western Cape minister of social development Sharna Fernandez on Tuesday called on society to help in the fight against human trafficking, urging parents in particular to be extra vigilant.

In a statement to mark the start of human trafficking awareness week, Fernandez said South Africa continued to be a source, transit and destination country for victims, with traffickers increasingly becoming organized crime syndicates and using deceptive means to potentially abduct and traffic adults and children. 

Of those taken, it is estimated that less than two percent are ever found.

"Victims of human trafficking can be identified as they are controlled by another person and are not free to come and go as they wish," Fernandez said, adding that victims also exhibited poor mental and physical health including substance abuse, signs of physical abuse or malnourishment, avoided eye contact and had few or no personal possessions.

She said the provincial goverment was working closely with the South African Police Service, the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks), the National Prosecuting Authority, International Organization for Migration and specialist non-governmental organisations to fight the scourge.

“Our department currently funds 16 shelters in the Western Cape that can accommodate victims and their children up to three months, and four emergency shelters that accommodate victims for up to two weeks," she said.

African News Agency/ANA