Friday, July 24, 2015

Visas and Trafficking

As many as “30,000 kids trafficked in SA” read a headline in The Times in October 2013. A similar article appeared in the Pretoria News, suggesting that “at least 30,000 children” are trafficked and prostituted annually in South Africa and “50 per cent of them are under the age of 14”. Rawlins said she had been misquoted in the Pretoria News article and said she had told the newspaper that there are 30,000 children “currently” being prostituted in South Africa, not annually as they reported. However, the International Organisation for Migration’s 2008 report “No Experience Necessary”: The Internal Trafficking of Persons in South Africa does not estimate that there are 30,000 children currently being trafficked for the purpose of prostitution in South Africa. Nor does it claim that 50% are under the age of 14. The paper attributed the claim to Roxanne Rawlins of Freedom Climb, “a project that works with trafficked people around the globe”. In May 2013, Margaret Stafford, the coordinator for the Salvation Army’s anti-trafficking campaign, reportedly told The Star:  “In 2010, we had 20,000 to 30,000 children prostituted – now the figure stands at 45,000.”

Are 30,000 children trafficked each year in South Africa? The South African government is citing it as a reason for introducing stricter regulations for children traveling into and out of the country. The South African Department of Home Affairs started enforcing new travel regulations in June 2015. Children under the age of 18 must now carry their full, or “unabridged”, birth certificate when crossing SA's borders. This shows the names of both parents. A month before the regulations came into effect, director-general of the department, Mkuseli Apleni, briefed Parliament on the new travel requirements. In his presentation he was reported to have claimed that an estimated 30,000 children were trafficked through South Africa every year. His presentation stated that one of the benefits of requiring minors to travel with an unabridged birth certificates was “protecting them from child trafficking”.

Available research only sheds light on detected victims. International Organisation for Migration reported assisting 306 victims of trafficking in the southern African region between January 2004 and January 2010. Of these, 57 were children. In 2011, they reported assisting 13 victims in South Africa, but did not state how many were children. In its 2014 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime stated that “the police reported to have detected 155 victims of trafficking (of all ages) during the fiscal years 2011/12 and 2012/13” in South Africa. Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba in June this year said his department had recorded no instances of child trafficking between 2009/10 and 2011/12. Between 2012/13 and 2014/15 they had detected 23 victims.

The director of the Centre for Child Law at the University of Pretoria, Professor Ann Skelton, has said her centre believes the new requirements are “far too broad” and that “the inconvenience to ordinary people far outweighs the actual risk of trafficking”.

Liesl Muller and Patricia Erasmus, both attorneys at Lawyers for Human Rights, previously told Africa Check that the measures will not prevent child trafficking. “Real human traffickers don’t follow legitimate and documented methods of travel but cross the border in illegitimate and clandestine circumstances. The regulations won’t prevent this,” they said.

The sex work industry and human trafficking are often presented as linked and interdependent but the reality is that there is little tangible evidence available that human trafficking within South Africa plays a large part in the sex trade. In a 2010 brief for the African Centre for Migration and Society, researchers Marlise Richter and Tamlyn Monson highlighted the importance of not conflating sex work and human trafficking: “The difference between sex work and trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation is that sex work reflects an individual’s decision to engage in a sexual transaction, while exploitation through trafficking occurs against the will of the victim.” A senior researcher at South Africa’s Institute for Security Studies’, Chandre Gould, found little evidence of trafficking in the sex industry in Cape Town. Only 8 of the 164 women she canvassed said that they had at one time been a victim of human trafficking-like practices. “This finding is likely to cause controversy,” she writes. “An enormous amount of donor money is available specifically for projects that counter trafficking, so organisations working in this area potentially stand to lose funding if trafficking is not in fact as prevalent as assumed.”

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