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SA prime destination for human trafficking

'Walk for Freedom' aims to raise awareness of human trafficking. Photo: Phill Magakoe

'Walk for Freedom' aims to raise awareness of human trafficking. Photo: Phill Magakoe

Published Oct 16, 2015

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Johannesburg - A stellar pupil at a school in a rural area is approached by someone they know.

The pupil, most likely to be a girl, is offered a scholarship or bursary she never applied for and is told everything will be paid for. In another instance the girl is offered a high-paying job with no experience needed.

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These are both examples of how modern-day human traffickers work. The girl will be taken to a city, within South Africa or beyond, Mozambique perhaps, and after this it is unlikely she will see her family ever again.

This is all according to Mandy Murugan, an activist and member of The A21 Campaign.

Murugan said she joined the campaign five years ago and had since been fighting against “modern-day slavery”.

“The most shocking thing is that people know the victim really well and they go with them from a place of naiveté and a yearning for jobs and a better life,” Murugan said.

She said this made them unable to separate fact from fiction, which left them gullible to being trafficked.

“They are then taken to cities and are either sold immediately into sex slavery, into domestic servitude or fishing boats and wine farms.”

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According to the 2014 Traffic In Persons (TIP) report, among children who are trafficked, girls are subjected to sex trafficking and domestic servitude while boys are forced to work in street vending, food service, begging, criminal activities, and agriculture. From here the road becomes darker for the victims as they are beaten, starved and abused by their captors, and even if the thought of escape surfaces in their minds, their families are threatened.

“The victims trust no one.”

Another less-publicised method of human trafficking is the tradition of ‘ukuthwala’.

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This is when girls as young as 12 are forcefully married to adult men in some remote villages in the Eastern and Western Cape provinces as well as the Free State. Murugan said victims didn’t even trust the police.

“Many of them see the police or people wearing police uniforms coming into the brothel so they don’t trust them.”

She suggests victims contact a human trafficking hotline if that feels safer than speaking to the police. “Human trafficking is the second biggest crime in the world after drug trafficking and it happens every day. South Africa is a prime destination for international crime syndicates from Africa, South East Asia and Eastern Europe smuggling children and adults alike into South Africa, for sex purposes, among other forms of exploitation.

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“Sadly no community is immune to this atrocity.”

Following Human Trafficking Week last week, Joburg A21 Campaign is hosting a “Walk For Freedom” event where they plan to raise awareness of the scourge.

In a statement they wrote: “The more people are aware of how these crime syndicates operate, the less they’ll fall for the deceiving traps set by these criminals and the more people will be empowered to protect themselves and their children. Through the walk, we hope to gather and mobilise everyday men and women to step up and raise their voices against modern-day slavery in our city and continent.”

The walk will take place in and around the perimeter of Rhema Bible Church in Randburg on October 17.

“The (other) purpose of the walk is to put the spotlight on the $32 billion (R422bn) criminal industry that currently sees 27 million men, women and children trapped in modern-day slavery (human trafficking) around the world,” they added.

Signs to look out for

“When you get a too-good-to-be-true job offer with no normal processes to look into them, phone the company,” says Mandy Murugan.

“Be careful on social media who you become friends with and beware of any offers to travel or study.

“When it comes to kids be careful who they’re talking to online as well.

“They’re just looking for affirmation and love and they sometimes look in the wrong places.”

Helplines

Organisation name: South African Catholic Bishop’s Conference

Phone: 012 323 6458

Organisation name: International Organisation for Migration South Africa

Phone: 012 342 2789

Organisation name: The Salvation Army

Phone: 08000 RESCU(73728)

Organisation name: The A21 Campaign

Phone: 0800 555 999

[email protected]

The Star

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