SA human trafficking caseload on the rise - campaign

Cape Town - A global organisation that assists people who have been trafficked said it has seen an increase in their caseload in South Africa in the last two years.

“We can’t say whether it’s because of an increasing amount of survivors coming out because of awareness or whether there are actually more cases,” the A21 campaign’s local development manager, Katie Modrau, told News24.

“It’s hard to say for now. I’d like to believe that awareness has increased.”

The South African branch had dealt with 41 cases since the middle of 2013 until now, of which sex trafficking constituted a large portion.

It saw an increasing amount of forced labour and domestic servitude cases last year.

“That is encouraging. It helps us to see that the stakeholders we work with understand the broadening definition of trafficking.”

Modrau said South Africa was attractive to traffickers because its borders were relatively porous and there were many vulnerable groups.

Victims (largely women, but men and children too) were either lured from rural to urban areas or from other countries to South Africa. Traffickers were often people within the same community, someone the victim knew or went to school with, and looked as though they were doing well for themselves.

'Treated like an animal and a personal slave'

With domestic servitude cases, the person was forced to wake up early, keep a house clean, cook and look after children without payment. Modrau added that they were sometimes not even given a bed to sleep on. 

“Some people think they will be earning R1 000 or R1 500 a month and when they get here, they are treated like an animal and a personal slave,” she said.

In the case of forced labour, many victims were lured with the promise of a job and assisted with a bus ticket to their destination.

“When the job hasn’t come through, you are slapped with a debt and told 'you owe so much for boarding and recruitment fees'. If you can’t pay back, they give you options.”

She said a number of young Nigerian women were lured to South Africa to study or work in a shop last year. When the opportunity failed to materialise, they were told they could dance at clubs in the interim.

After their work or study visa had expired, they were fired and then told they still had a debt to pay but could stand on the streets.

Similar cases were exposed as part of an in-depth News24 investigation last year.

The campaign has 10 offices in nine countries. Modrau said they helped to co-ordinate access to services such as safe houses and counselling. 

People could report cases or suspicious behaviour to the national human trafficking hotline, 24 hours a day, on 0800 555 999.

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