Address by Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba MP, at the Launch of the cooperation programme in addressing Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants in South Africa, in Pretoria on 22 September 2016
UN Office of Drugs and Crime Deputy Executive Director, Mr. Aldo Lale Demoz,
UN Office of Drugs and Crime Regional Representative in Southern Africa, Ms. Zhuldyz Akisheva,
Officials of the Department of Home Affairs,
Ladies and gentlemen:
It is the view of the Department of Home Affairs that if managed effectively, international migration is a largely positive phenomenon, which can contribute to the development of our country and benefit our people as well as both the immigrants and their countries of origin.
This belief in the economic and social benefits of international migration informs the new draft policy on international migration currently out for public comment until September 30th.
Of course, we must acknowledge that international migration does come with significant challenges and risks.
The reality is that in as much as we, albeit for totally different reasons, have also begun to recognise the positive benefits of international migration, criminals do too, for their own iniquitous reasons, recognise that they can today more easier than before conduct their criminal enterprise on a massive and international scale.
High among these is the twin scourge of human trafficking and people smuggling.
Human trafficking and smuggling of migrants too often leads to injury and death in transit, exploitation, sexual abuse, forced marriage and even slavery.
These are amongst the most heinous and despicable of crimes, with devastating impact on victims, which blight our collective consciences as humanity.
In addition to the immense human cost, they undermine our legal and social fabric through their association with organized crime, and attempts to evade, corrupt and undermine our law enforcement, criminal justice, immigration systems and social welfare systems.
Heartless transnational criminal elements seek to profit from people’s yearning for employment, safety and a better life; and, at the same time, pounce on vulnerable people, especially women and children, by exploiting weak legal frameworks and under-resourced immigration and criminal justice systems in some countries.
They have sought to take advantage of law enforcement regimes which were too weak and slow to adapt to this growing form of organized crime.
They also seek to take advantage of gaps in international law enforcement coordination and cooperation, especially within regions which lack adequate personnel and financial resources to combat this scourge.
Yet another disconcerting fact is that there are countries that do not seem to consider these crimes to be urgent, especially when they involve the trafficking of women and children.
There are instances when powerful and well-resourced interests, because their own children and women are not as vulnerable as those of the poor and working classes, disparage these risks and whenever they are raised, they ask the question, “what is the rate of child and / or women trafficking?”, as if to suggest that one person smuggled and / or trafficked is an acceptable figure.
Real people get dehumanised and converted into rates and ratios, figures and statistics.
The responsibilities of the Department of Home Affairs with regard to human trafficking are outlined in the Human Trafficking Act.
The Department is mandated to grant a foreign victim of trafficking permission to remain in the country for a reflection period of 90 days, giving them time to think and make a decision whether to help the police with the investigation and testify in court.
We are also expected to consider an application for permanent residence by the victim after the prosecution process is finalised.
The application is authorized by Section 31 of the Immigration Act, which empowers the Minister of Home Affairs to grant permanent residence to foreign nationals based on special circumstances.
Where we have determined that it is safe to return a victim of trafficking to their country of origin, we liaise with foreign embassies and facilitate the process of obtaining travel documents and facilitate the repatriation process.
We work with the International Organisation of Migration, the Department of Social Development and foreign embassies to reunite trafficked children with their families.
Where children who are victims of trafficking want to further their studies in South Africa, we assist them with study visas.
We also compile statements of victims in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act (1977) for the South African Police Service to assist in the prosecution of offenders in trafficking and smuggling cases.
One of the tenets of the draft international migration policy is that international migration is a phenomenon which is best managed when countries work together, regionally and through international organizations like the United Nations.
Furthermore, going forward, the successful establishment and capacitation of the Border Management Authority (BMA), should further bolster our initiatives and capacity in this regard.
In this context, we welcome the partnership with the European Union (EU) and the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, under the “Global Action to prevent and address Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants” (GLO.ACT).
The UNODC is well placed to assist countries in combatting these challenges.
Through its work with member states all over the world, it is able to co-develop international best practices, and partner with countries to implement these.
Therefore we welcome South Africa’s inclusion in the GLO.ACT programme, as a priority country.
This cooperation programme follows an earlier period of successful cooperation.
Between 2009 and 2013, the EU and UNODC partnered with the Border Control Operational Coordinating Committee (BCOCC) as part of a 3-year project, “Strengthening Law Enforcement Capacity (Border Control Operations) and Criminal Justice Response to Smuggling of Migrants and Trafficking in Persons”.
The project strengthened capacity among South African Port of Entry officials to effectively deal with the smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons.
Advanced document examination equipment was donated by the UNODC and has been installed at OR Tambo, King Shaka and Cape Town International airports.
Following this programme, we saw an improvement in the detection of suspicious travel documents and potential cases of human trafficking or smuggling of migrants.
South Africa is also in the process of developing legislation on the Smuggling of Migrants.
Offences of Smuggling of Migrants are currently prosecuted under the Immigration Act and the Prevention of Organized Crime Act (POCA), which to a great extent cover criminal acts outlined by the Smuggling of Migrants Protocol and the Organized Crime Convention.
Research has been undertaken to identify best international practice and adapt this to the situation in South Africa, which has a Constitution founded on the principle of self-determination and the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Interim measures include improved training for immigration and law enforcement officers based on these principles, that is, improving security and service delivery at ports of entry and improving the rate and quality of the adjudication on cases of asylum seekers.
This will assist and strengthen the development of the envisaged legislation.
This scourge is faced with increasing intensity in Southern Africa too, with all SADC countries involved either as source, transit, destination or all countries.
A majority of detected cases revealed that people were smuggled and trafficked into South Africa for sexual exploitation, forced labour, forced marriages and others used as drug mules.
This highlights the need for regional cooperation.
We must work with both our immediate and regional neighbours to strengthen our collective capacity to combat human trafficking and people smuggling.
We are aware that only 15 countries around the world are being included as part of the GLOACT programme.
To maximize the regional impact of this programme, we must ensure that the learnings and capacity we develop as part of this programme are shared with the rest of the SADC region.
STRENGTHENING EFFORTS TO COMBAT HUMAN TRAFFICKING AND PEOPLE SMUGGLING
There are clearly a number of steps we can take to prevent, prosecute and eventually eradicate human trafficking.
Firstly, we need better data and research to better understand the scale of the problem and local/regional dynamics.
Accurate data on trafficking levels and characteristics are a challenge for authorities globally, due to the clandestine nature of the activity.
Those that have particular sectarian interests use this to seek to deny the extent, if not the very existence, of the challenge of trafficking and smuggling.
Still, government, working with research institutions and our international partners – UNODC, IOM and ILO – must conduct research to better understand the scale and nature of trafficking in South Africa, SADC and the continent as a whole.
Secondly, we must orient, train and capacitate law enforcement agencies and personnel to respond more effectively to human trafficking.
Human trafficking is secretive and relies on keeping victims silent, terrified and hidden from view.
It can be perpetrated by one or two people acting individually trafficking a family member or other vulnerable person in their community.
It is also frequently perpetrated by ruthless, sophisticated organized crime syndicates, who see this despicable activity as a lucrative industry which receives far less attention from authorities than activities such as drug trafficking, the existence of which is denied by sectarian interests particularly in the economy.
To effectively combat this unique challenge, our security agencies must develop and be provided the specialized strategies, training and resources necessary to confront it.
Relevant agencies must: develop intelligence on syndicates; work effectively with communities to prevent and identify incidents; rescue, protect and address the needs of victims; increase arrests and successful prosecutions of perpetrators.
Thirdly, we must increase intelligence sharing and the coordination of efforts among relevant agencies.
Lessons learned from joint operations should be codified and applied to expand cooperation between agencies with lead roles in security and international migration.
This cooperation and intelligence sharing can and must be applied to combat trafficking, which has both international and domestic flows and elements.
Fourthly, we must partner with NGOs and civil society groups to identify incidents of trafficking and smuggling, assist victims and raise societal awareness.
The Department of Home Affairs has run annual campaigns during October’s National Human Trafficking Awareness Week.
These must be expanded in partnership with civil society to increase reach in that week and throughout the year.
Finally, we must strengthen international partnerships with other countries in the region and beyond.
Particularly, we may attention to the trafficking route from the Horn of Africa through East Africa, down to SADC and into South Africa and ensure that we develop common perspectives and strategies with our neighbours to combat this scourge.
We must make source and transit countries our allies in combatting trafficking and smuggling.
No country must turn a blind eye or look the other way merely because the trafficking and smuggling syndicates are only transiting through their country.
We have a collective responsibility to protect our common citizens and each other’s integrity.
We must raise the profile of this issue, coordinate prevention and enforcement efforts and share intelligence and best practices.
In this way we may be able to forestall people’s entry into the cruel world of trafficking and smuggling in the first instance.
Our government stands resolute that human trafficking is an evil, an abomination and an egregious violation of a person’s human rights.
We have made progress by enacting domestic legislation on human trafficking in line with the Palermo Protocol.
We must continue to build a legal framework to deal with these challenges by refining and passing Smuggling of Migrants legislations.
To strengthen our anti-trafficking and anti-smuggling efforts, we must increase our understanding of the scale and nature of the problem through research and intelligence work.
Furthermore, we must improve the capacity of relevant agencies, improve coordination and information sharing, and forge more effective partnerships with international partners, civil society as well as source and transit countries.
The Republic of South Africa thanks the European Union and the UNODC for their partnership and support.
With all of us working together, a world free of human trafficking and people smuggling is imaginable and possible.
I thank you.