Windhoek — Not much is known about the activities of human traffickers and much less their ways of committing the crime.
Kristin Kvigne, assistant director at the global policing agency Interpol made this startling revelation on Monday at the opening of the Working Group Meeting on Trafficking in Human Beings currently ongoing in the city.
"After 10 years of Interpol working group meetings on trafficking, I would argue that we still know amazingly little. We have only a vague idea of the scale of the crime and the way it is organized. We know fairly little about the traffickers. We understand fragments of the recruitment process, we know a little about how the money is moved but not enough to make an impact through the seizing of assets."
Kvigne said the gaps in understanding this problem could be attributed to the diversity of the crime as it differs from one country to another.
The working group meeting is a platform devised by Interpol to share and exchange information, intelligence and strategies between law enforcement agencies and to develop best practises aimed at improving international cooperation between its members in the fight against human trafficking.
Deputy Inspector General for Administration at the Namibian Police, Major General James Tjivikua said trafficking has become a major concern in the region.
Tjivikua added that the trafficking of persons especially women and children is worsened by a number of factors, the leading cause being that of profit.
The trafficking of human beings is a multi-faceted area of crime incorporating crimes as diverse as trafficking for forced labour into the agriculture sector or manufacturing industries, trafficking in human organs and sexual services for promised better opportunities.
The clandestine nature of human trafficking makes the scale of the illicit industry difficult to assess and there are few reliable statistics on the number of persons trafficked in the Southern African region.
South Africa is commonly regarded as the main country of destination for trafficked persons in the region. In many cases, women and children are lured to South Africa with promises of jobs, education or marriage, only to be sold and sexually exploited in the country's major urban centres, or small towns and more rural environments.
In April this year, Mozambique became the first country of the 14-member regional body, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), to enact a law specifically criminalizing human trafficking. However, 12 SADC countries have ratified the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, which is also known as the Palermo Protocol.
Adopted by the United Nations in Palermo, Italy in 2000, the protocol requires signatories to combat human trafficking and protect and assist victims of trafficking. South Africa is currently developing anti-trafficking legislation.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) contends that global human trafficking is worth between US$7 billion and $12 billion annually, making it the third most lucrative criminal activity after the narcotics and weapons trades, although "in contrast to these other criminal activities, however, the penalties for human trafficking in most countries are much less severe, or non-existent".
Tjivikua opined that legislation currently used in the region is outdated and sentences for conviction are also "ridiculously low".
"The fragmented legislation presently being utilized in the countries of the region is firstly antiquated, having been promulgated before this new phenomenon, and secondly the sentences are ridiculously low for such crimes widely viewed as modern day slavery. The chances for the trafficker to be apprehended are low due to the nature of the crime, resulting in this crime being classified as high profit and low risk for arrest," said Tjivikua.
The working group meeting ends today.