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People living in poverty at risk of being trafficked

International relations and cooperation minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah said despite legal frameworks in place, Namibians remain at risk of trafficking, particularly those living in poverty.

Nandi-Ndaitwah made these remarks in a speech read on her behalf by poverty eradication minister Doreen Sioka during the commemoration of World Day Against Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and the launch of the TIP national plan at Oshikango on Friday.

“The unemployed and people living in poverty have limited access to education, experiencing violence or abuse. In fact women, girls and children are mostly at risk and are trafficked for forced labour and sex work,” said Nandi-Ndaitwah.

According to the United States annual report on trafficking in persons of 2022, Namibia is a source, transit and destination country for trafficking in person and other transnational organised crimes, said Nandi-Ndaitwah.

“Since 2010 to date, a total of 101 cases of trafficking in persons have been reported in Namibia, of which 38 are under investigation, 24 are on the court roll awaiting trail, five cases have been submitted to the prosecutor general for her decision, and 34 cases have been finalised,” she said.

Nandi-Ndaitwah said 60 victims of trafficking were identified.

“During the financial year 2022 and 2023, 10 victims were repatriated back to their countries of origin.”

Nandi-Ndaitwah said despite efforts by the government, stakeholder interventions and the implementation of mechanisms and standard operating procedures on trafficking in persons, there is still a need to do more to protect people from being trafficked.

Speaking at the same occasion, prosecutor general Martha Imalwa highlighted that border towns like Oshikango tend to be a hotspot for crimes of human trafficking.

“People in the northern regions need to be aware that when they see young children from countries like Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Zambia, selling sweets and other goods, sometimes these children may be victims of trafficking in persons who are exploited for vending purposes,” said Imalwa.

She said awareness raising campaigns should be intensified so that community members become aware of the crime.

Imalwa said the common practice of employing poor family members from Angola or Opuwo as domestic workers, making them work long hours in the fields and not paying them enough or at all, is exploitation.

“They recruit the victims and harbour them in their homes, still the fact that victims are from poor families makes them vulnerable. Using them to work long hours or without paying them is exploitation by law. The fact that the victims came on their own to look for work in your homes due to poverty is no excuse for them to be exploited,” Imalwa said.

United Nations Southern Africa office on drugs and crime regional representative Brian Poliah said governments, businesses and the public need to be aware of the powerful trafficking threats posed by technology.

Poliah said there is a need for quick action and intervention for countries to protect themselves, identify high risk behaviour and vulnerable groups, and develop the capacity within their law enforcement agencies to address the new modus operandi.