Human trafficking thrives as economy slows
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Durban - As the economy declined, the country was going to see an increase in human trafficking because criminals viewed it as “an easier crime to get into”.
It was simpler to get into human trafficking than other lucrative crimes such as drug trafficking, as little or no capital input was needed, said advocate Dawn Coleman-Malinga of the sexual offences and community affairs unit.
She was speaking at a workshop in Pietermaritzburg arranged by the National Association of Democratic Lawyers’ gender desk.
Harshna Munglee, a national gender officer, said a series of workshops on the subject would take place across the country.
Coleman-Malinga explained that this type of trafficking exploited vulnerable people. It generated billions in profit each year and was one of the world’s fastest growing criminal activities. Internationally, it was estimated to be the third most profitable business branch of organised crime, after drug dealing and the small arms trade.
People who had been trafficked might be forced to work against their will, be unable to leave their work environment, show signs that their movements were being controlled, be subjected to violence or threats of violence against themselves or against their family members or loved ones and suffer injuries at the hand of those controlling them.
Coleman-Malinga said there were a number of factors that created a favourable atmosphere for trafficking. Traffickers could not operate without the supply of victims, who often were seduced by offers of legitimate employment and the chance at a better life.
“Besides those cases where victims are forcibly abducted, there continues to be a steady supply of large numbers of victims who are willing to leave their homes in anticipation of a better life.”
They were pushed into it by poverty, unemployment, lack of education, domestic violence, porous borders, ignorance and a lack of alternatives. There were also pull factors that included the anticipation of employment and financial gain, of a better lifestyle, and potential access to the perceived “glamour” of life in the cities as portrayed by the media.
Also, there was a belief that the promised job offered the only available alternative to continued poverty, despite the well-publicised risks.
Traffickers controlled their victims in a variety of ways including getting them addicted to drugs. She added there was also the Stockholm syndrome, also known as capture-bonding, which was a psychological phenomenon in which hostages expressed empathy and sympathy so that they had positive feelings towards their captors.
This could sometimes lead to a situation in which they would even defend their captors.