IOM Marks Human Trafficking Awareness Week in South Africa

By International Office of Migration (IOM)
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GENEVA, Switzerland, October 3, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Every year, South Africa marks National Human Trafficking Awareness Week in an effort to increase awareness of trafficking in persons across the country. This year the week will run from today through next Friday (3-10 October).

The crime of human trafficking is being committed in South Africa, but due to its hidden nature, is very difficult to quantify. The number of victims assisted by IOM since 2004 shows that South Africans are being trafficked to other countries; that traffickers use the country as a transit destination; and that people are trafficked to the country from other parts of the world including Eastern Europe and Asia.

There is also evidence of internal trafficking taking place. Victims are recruited from informal settlements and rural areas by traffickers who take advantage of the desire of people for a better life, according to IOM's 2008 report: “No Experience Necessary: The Internal Trafficking of Persons in South Africa.”

Victims often end up in the country's major cities including Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, Pretoria, Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth, and mining regions like Rustenburg.

“No country in the world is immune to the crime of human trafficking. It is a global phenomenon and the third largest profitable illegal trade after drugs and weapons. South Africa is a place of origin, transit and destination for victims,” says Richard Ots, IOM South Africa Chief of Mission.

To support the government of South Africa in the fight against human trafficking, IOM is launching a series of activities during this special awareness week.

Today and on Saturday (3-4 October), IOM will organize outreach campaigns in Pretoria and Johannesburg, in partnership with the University of Johannesburg (UJ). These activities will aim at educating the public about trafficking – the process, forms of exploitation and how they can report suspected cases.

Earlier this year, IOM partnered with the UJ, Department of Strategic Communications to develop an awareness raising campaign. The concepts of campaigns were developed by UJ students as part of their Strategic Communication curriculum and student assessment this year.

The key message of the campaigns is “#TRAPPED”. This is intended to ignite curiosity about the campaign whilst highlighting the bondage and trauma experienced by trafficking victims. Once recruited and transported to their destinations, victims are usually trapped in helpless and exploitative situations.

On Monday (6 October), IOM will participate in a media briefing with senior officials from the Department of Justice, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) at the headquarters of the NPA in Pretoria. The media briefing will provide an update on the human trafficking situation in South Africa, the national response, and share data on global and regional trafficking trends.

On the last day of the special week (10 October), IOM will partner with the Department of Justice, NPA, South African Police Service (The HAWKS) and the Dutch Embassy to host a public debate on Trafficking in Persons and Liberalization of Legislation on Commercial Sex Work in South Africa.

The debate aims to promote dialogue on legislation in combating trafficking in persons. Panellists will debate whether liberalization of legislation on prostitution in South Africa would lead to an increase or decrease in cases of trafficking in persons.