Botswana Joins International Efforts to Curb Trafficking in Persons

Commemoration of International Day Against Trafficking in Persons, Botswane (Picture: UNODC)  
Commemoration of World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, Botswane (Picture: UNODC)

Palapye, Botswana - On July 30, 2015, UNODC joined the Government of Botswana, the European Union Delegation and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat in commemorating World Day against Trafficking in Persons.

Globally, trafficking in persons remains all too common and without robust criminal justice responses, it will remain a low risk, high profit activity for criminals. More than 90% of countries have enacted legislation criminalizing trafficking in persons since the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children under the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime came into force more than 10 years ago. Botswana became a party to the Protocol in 2002 and in 2014, with support from the UNODC, it enacted the country's first specific anti-trafficking legislation - the Anti-Human Trafficking Act, No.32 of 2014. The Act substantially domesticates the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children.

  Bakgori Molatlhegi
Bakgori Molatlhegi (Picture: UNODC)

Present at the event was Bakgori Molatlhegi, a Motswana woman, who fell victim to traffickers in 2012. Fortunately, she escaped and now tells her story to raise awareness of this crime and prevent others from becoming victims. Bakgori revealed how she was coerced by a fellow church member's promise to provide her with a job as a family caregiver in Canada. Believing that the opportunity would lead to a better life for her and her children overseas, and trusting her fellow church member, she unwittingly surrendered her land title deed and children's birth certificates. She was instructed that the documents were needed to obtain passports for her children. It was only when she was already on the plane that her suspicions to possibly being in danger were raised, when her travel partner instructed her that upon arrival in Toronto, and when questioned by Canadian immigration officials, she was to go along with a story that they were asylum seekers. Upon arriving at Toronto's International Airport, and believing that Bakgori would do as instructed, the woman travelling with Bakgori informed the Canadian immigration officials that Bakgori and herself were seeking asylum. Bakgori, following her gut, denied the claims in front of the Canadian authorities. Bakgori's courageous act immediately put the Canadian officials on alert. She was sent to a safe house, where she testified that she met more Batswana women and girls who were also alleged victims of trafficking. After the investigation into her case was complete, she was repatriated to Botswana.

Assistant Minister of Education and Skills Development  
 Assistant Minister Goya (Picture: UNODC)

Highlighting the Government of Botswana's theme for the day "Human Trafficking is Real: Do Not Become a Victim", key speakers, Mr. Moiseraele Goya, Assistant Minister of Education and Skills Development and Member of Parliament for Palapye, Mr. Jorge Cardoso, Director of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security at the SADC Secretariat, and Mr. Jocelin Cornet, Head of Section for Regional Cooperation with SADC, European Union Delegation to Botswana and SADC, each took turns in encouraging the youth to educate themselves about the ways traffickers operate, so as to protect themselves from becoming victims. Drawing on the messages of UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon that "[c]riminal trafficking networks thrive in countries where the rule of law is weak and international cooperation is difficult", and UNODC Executive Director, Yuri Fedotov that "[t]he first step to taking action is taking this crime seriously", UNODC Regional Representative, Ms. Zhuldyz Akisheva, commended the Government of Botswana for its efforts in improving its criminal justice response to counter trafficking in persons by enacting the Anti-Human Trafficking Act. She called for stronger regional cooperation in addressing trafficking in persons, which is often a cross-border crime by its nature. Cooperation at the regional level needs to be fostered between SADC Member States, as well as between development partners working in the field of trafficking in persons in Southern Africa.

The 2014 UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons highlights the true extent of the crime, noting that between 2010 and 2012, victims holding citizenship from 152 different countries were found in 124 countries. With at least 510 identified trafficking flows crisscrossing the world, it is evident that no country is immune to this global crisis. These are minimum figures as they are based on official data reported by national authorities and represent only the visible part of the trafficking phenomenon, with actual figures believed to be far higher. In response, UNODC in partnership with the SADC Secretariat and SADC Member States, has developed an Anti-Trafficking in Persons Data Collection System. The system has been developed to ensure that the Southern African region collects reliable data on the crime so as to continue developing effective measures to curb it and aid in the global reporting of the crime. This, and initiatives like that taken by Botswana to enact specific anti-trafficking legislation, are not only steps in the right direction, but are also evidence that governments and people everywhere are approaching the issue of trafficking in persons with greater urgency.

Learn more

To access the Global Report on Trafficking in Persons (2014), visit Tools and Publications
To learn more visit What is human trafficking? and What is migrant smuggling?