Monday, December 11, 2006

South Africa: Rife With Human Trafficking

Innocent victims: A little girl abducted from Mozambique finds sanctuary at the Amazing Grace Children's Home in Mpumalanga. She was one of the lucky ones. Photo: Boxer Ngwenya, The Star

SOUTH AFRICA: They are promised a better life in South Africa, but instead they are kidnapped, branded and sold into sexual slavery for as little as R380 [$54USD].

Women and children, some as young as 13, are falling prey to syndicates operating in Mozambique and Swaziland, trafficking and smuggling them to South Africa on an unprecedented scale.

According to a report from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), at least 1,000 Mozambicans are smuggled into South Africa monthly at a price of about R1,000 [$140USD] each.

Margie de Monchy, the United Nations Children's Fund's child protection adviser, said South African cities, especially Johannesburg, were often used as a marketplace by human traffickers and were also targeted by international syndicates to smuggle girls out of South Africa to Asia and Europe.

Slave traders use the country's cities as a transit point to Europe. Often, rural children who are taken advantage of are offered the chance of an education or a better life.

They are then told that they need to pay large amounts of money to buy their freedom, which they never get, and are then forced into labour or the sex industry, De Monchy said.

Due to the absence of legislation and allegations of police complicity with the traffickers, the South African Police Service is battling to stop the rampant human smuggling.

The IOM says human trafficking is one of the world's most lucrative trades, surpassed only by drug and gun trafficking, and estimates the industry nets organised-crime gangs about R50-billion a year.

An investigation by The Star has revealed cases of syndicates abducting or luring girls as young as eight from their homes to South Africa.

The Mareyane (traffickers), as the syndicates are known along the border areas, operate by pretending to be acquaintances or relatives of the innocent girls and luring them from their homes to Johannesburg.

The victims end up in brothels in, among other places, Hillbrow and Yeoville, where they are used as prostitutes or in porn videos shown on the Internet. Some are sold as sex slaves or for hard labour.


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