By Ambassador Makila James
It is a privilege for me to be here with you today at this very important event. According to the United Nations, “at any given time, an estimated 2.5 million people are trapped in modern-day slavery.” Men, women and children fall into the hands of traffickers both in their own countries and abroad. The United States and Swaziland, like every other country in the world, are affected by human trafficking, whether as a country of origin, transit, or destination for victims who are being trafficked.
As President Obama has said, human trafficking “… ought to concern every person, because it is a debasement of our common humanity… it tears at our social fabric… it distorts markets…it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime. [That is] the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name — modern slavery.”
I would like to commend the Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland for its efforts so far to combat the plague of modern slavery by developing and implementing the National Strategic Framework and Action Plan on Trafficking in Persons 2013-2015. I am pleased that the Prime Minister, as the head of government, is taking a lead in combatting this horrific crime. I was particularly happy to hear about the human trafficking sensitization exercises being conducted for staff members at all border posts as well as at the international airport.
These activities are so important if officers are going to be able to identify trafficking cases at ports of entry, informal crossings, and inside the country. I also want to applaud the Swazi Government for providing at least one shelter to victims and for allocating a modest amount money to a ”Victim Assistance Fund” to help victims of trafficking obtain basic necessities as they try to make a new start.
Unfortunately, though, there is still much that must be done in order to end the scourge of human trafficking. Human trafficking persists because the perpetrators continue to make a profit by exploiting their victims through fraud, force or coercion, deception, threat and abuse. The UN has highlighted the fact that the most common form of trafficking is sexual exploitation, for which the vast majority of victims are women and girls. This is particularly important in Swaziland where women and girls already face significant obstacles to full participation in civic life and are disproportionately affected by the HIV epidemic. The second most common form of human trafficking is forced labor, which impacts men and women, the old and the young.
As I am sure you are all aware, Swaziland has passed the People Trafficking and Smuggling Prohibition Act of 2009, which designates trafficking as a serious crime.
The law was passed in 2010 and prescribes penalties of up to 20 years imprisonment for the trafficking of adults and 25 years imprisonment for the trafficking of children While the legislative framework is in place, a lack of prosecution and convictions in cases involving human trafficking has caused Swaziland to remain low ranked as a Tier 2 country in the U.S. Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons report. This report also ranks the United States’ anti trafficking efforts as well. Countries in the Tier 2 category are those whose governments do not fully comply with the
Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards. This effort is especially important in Swaziland as the high level of poverty and lack of employment opportunities in the country leave many of its citizens particularly vulnerable to human trafficking.
The Swazi Government’s partnership with neighboring countries, Mozambique and South Africa is also of paramount importance in the prevention of cross-border crimes like trafficking in persons. However, it is also important to note that human trafficking does not always happen across borders. In fact, many victims never leave their home countries, but are enslaved right where they are living through things like forced domestic servitude or child labor. This is true in Swaziland and throughout the world.
And it reminds us that combatting human trafficking, at home and abroad, is a complicated and difficult task which requires adequate financial resources. It is especially important that the Secretariat within the Prime Minister’s Office, which is responsible for coordinating the government’s efforts to combat human trafficking, receive adequate funding in order to be able to effectively carry out their mandate. To be successful in these efforts, it also imperative that government partners with non-government organizations to prevent and
combat human trafficking as well as protect its victims. The issue is sufficiently complex and widespread that no one office or entity can tackle it alone.
I applaud the Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland for its increased efforts in preventing trafficking and protecting victims. Awareness programs like this one are an important first step and I hope they will continue at the community level to educate residents on
the dangers of human trafficking so that they can better protect themselves from this awful crime.
Some of the other key recommendations which the U.S. Government has shared with the Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland include:
1) allowing for permanent residency of foreign trafficking victims.
2) Vgorously investigating and prosecuting trafficking offenses, including domestic trafficking cases, and convicting and punishing trafficking offenders.
3) Begin regulating labor brokers and investigate allegations of fraudulent recruitment.
4) Develop and implement formal procedures to proactively identify trafficking victims and train officials on such procedures.
5) Complete development of a formal system to refer victims to care.
6) Expand anti-trafficking public awareness campaigns, like today’s event, particularly in the rural areas.
Because, as Secretary of State John Kerry said, “We each have a responsibility to make this horrific and all-too-common crime a lot less common. And our work with victims is the key that will open the door to real change—not just on behalf of the more than 44,000 survivors who have been identified in the past year, but also for the more than 20 million victims of trafficking who have not… I hope that each of us here today will make a commitment to do everything in our power – at home, in our communities, in our places of work, or wherever we may find ourselves – to put an end to human trafficking. Because no human being should ever be bought or sold. It’s as simple as that. Thank you.