GLO.ACT at the forefront in the fight against the scourge of Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and Smuggling of Migrants in South Africa

The Republic of South Africa is a primary destination for Trafficked Persons in the region and is also an origin or transit country for those trafficking towards Europe and North America. Trafficking affects women, men, and children exploited in forced labour, commercial sex, forced begging and forced criminality. Internally, girls are trafficked from rural to urban areas for sexual exploitation and domestic servitude, whilst boys are often forced into child labour and criminal activities. Trafficking frequently involves a range of criminal networks, dominated by different nationalities in separate locations.

Under this context, the Global Action to Prevent and Address Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants (GLO.ACT) was launched in South Africa on 26 September 2016. GLO.ACT is a four-year (2015-2019) UNODC joint initiative with the European Union (EU), implemented in partnership with IOM and UNICEF. At its launch, the previous Minister of Home Affairs Hon. Malusi Gigaba, stated that "…often powerful and well-resourced interests do not take these crimes seriously enough…When questioned they reply, 'what is the rate of child or women trafficking?', as if to suggest that one person smuggled or trafficked is an acceptable figure."

The global programme is expected to be delivered in up to 15 selected countries. Focus will be placed on assistance to governmental authorities, Civil Society Organizations, Victims of Trafficking and Smuggled Migrants.

The key challenge of the programme in South Africa is to address the lack of systematic collection and data analysis on TIP and SOM. For trafficking, different Government departments often produce their own statistics, disaggregated according to different parameters. Gaps in TIP identification particularly those not trafficked for sexual exploitation also hampers data collection.

As a result, UNODC has conducted an SOM Research Study with the Department of Home Affairs (DoHA) starting in April 2017, collecting data from provinces, with the aim to cover all by the end of 2018. This data will enable evidence-based policy decisions - a key factor - given that the DoHA is currently a legislative bill on SOM, which UNODC hopes to support.


A secondary priority is the provision of capacity building to increase the efficiency of criminal justice practitioners to respond to TIP and SOM.   From 24-26 July 2017, a TIP workshop for Criminal Justice Practitioners was hosted by UNODC in KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.  The workshop provided capacity building to 62 participants (33 female, 29 male) enabling them to:

  • Identify and investigate TIP cases and strengthen TIP victim referral mechanisms

  • Increase provision of victim protection, including the appropriate issuance of letters of recognition for TIP victims

  • Identify suspected TIP cases while providing follow up of correct referral mechanisms

  • Strengthen the handling and prosecution of TIP cases.

Due to the success in achieving the intended impact for beneficiaries, the workshop will be replicated in all provinces in to increase TIP response.

Additionally, UNODC hosted the first information sharing workshop in Pretoria in June 2017, bringing key stakeholders together to determine ways forward for a cohesive TIP/SOM response in South Africa.

Upcoming UNODC's GLO.ACT activities for implementation are as follows;

Johannesburg, South Africa 17 -19 October 2017: Seminar for African Prosecutors on TIP

The overall objective of this seminar is to facilitate professional networking and cooperation TIP cases amongst prosecutors, and increase chances of convictions being obtained in new and pending cases.  The specific objectives are to:

  1. Reflect on progress made in cases discussed in October 2016, whilst sharing best practice and lessons learnt

  2. Discuss with Prosecutors applicable principles of international law in new and pending cases based on UNODC resources (e.g. the Case Law Digest)

  3. Discuss questions of law arising from cases referring to international and regional jurisprudence

  4. Discuss potential and existing challenges in prosecuting TIP cases, whilst brainstorming possible solutions

  5. Discuss possible litigation strategies for different cases

  6. Facilitate cross-border and trans-regional cooperation and networking between prosecutors of different jurisdictions

Johannesburg, South Africa 23-27 October 2017: Regional Workshop to Prevent and Combat Smuggling of Migrants by Air through Strengthened Capacity to Examine Security Documents.

The aim will be to establish a Centre of Excellence on Forensic Document Examination and a training programme which will:

  1. Enhance criminal justice capacity to detect and investigate suspected smuggling of migrant cases whilst raising awareness of the rights of smuggled migrants
  2. Expand and continuously develop the skills of law enforcement officers in forensic document examination
  3. Facilitate intra-regional cooperation in the detection and investigation of smuggling of migrants cases.