5 October 2011

Tanzania: Human Trafficking Problem Grows in Dar es Salaam

Trafficking in human beings has become a global problem which affects every region and is considered to be the fastest growing form of organized crime and the largest transnational crime profit source.

According to the Anti Trafficking Unit Desk of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in Tanzania, the crime is placed third globally after illicit trade in drug and arms. This modern day slavery is estimated to entrap 27 million people netting an estimated profit of 32 billion dollars annually.

According to a recent BBC radio report, this vice is also said to be rife in Tanzania.

One of the victims who was a sex slave at a certain brothel but now a bar tender (name withheld) said that her aunt took her from her village promising better living and earnings in the city.

"I was taken by my aunty from our village in Mwanza Region, promising me a good paying job as a house help. But when I reached here I ended up in a brothel that is owned by the lady who had convinced my grand mother that there was a good jobs awaiting me," narrates the girl who resides and work at Kinondoni area, adding;

"I was just fifteen and I had never slept with any man before. I was forced to wear very skimpy dresses. I was in so much pain I was made to sleep with men twice or more my age. Some were so drunk and often insisted on not using condoms," she said rushing for an arriving costumer.

She said that she used to be given very little pay after offering the bodily service to a customer while the brothel owner pocketed the bigger amount.

"I finally escaped and I am now doing this job," she said. Recently there was a shocking conviction that made world headlines when a Tanzanian scientist and former Director of a London hospital Saeeda Khan was made to pay 25,000 pounds (50000 dollars) and a nine months suspended prison term for keeping her relative as slave labourer for the past five years.

According to media reports the Scientist kept Mwanahamisi Mruke (47) for all those years with literally no pay and made her work for 18 hours with no rest. She had been trafficked from Tanzania to the UK where she had been promised to work as a house maid but with higher pay than her 120,000/- monthly wage.

The head of Interpol in Tanzania SACP Hussein Laizer told the Daily News that he recently set up a special desk to curb the crime of human trafficking, labour and sex slavery in the country that he acknowledges to be endemic.

"We are investigating the problem to get details and figures. We are collaborating with the local police and around the East African region and beyond," Mr Laizer said.

"This is a new phenomenon in the country. Yes trafficking of people and sex and labor slavery have been there but it had not exploded to this magnitude," said Mr Laizer.

He said that apart from the local police, Interpol was also working with the ministry of Community Development, Gender and Children and the Immigration authorities to counter the vice.

"Gathering intelligence reports is our main priority for combating the crime. Interpol has deployed its officers across the country and beyond to check on the matter," Mr Laizer said.

He cited Dar es Salaam where he said Interpol was investigating tip in several areas including Kinondoni and Magomeni areas where sex slavery was reported to be rampant.

The Interpol Chief said that it was somewhat difficult for the syndicate to be brought to light or culprits to be netted because of the secretive nature under which the business operates. However he said police were trained and had many tactics to use to ensure that the vice was contained.

"We need the general public to take action against the vice by notifying us about the any suspicion of the business. It is almost impossible to net the culprits without a clue," he said.

"For instance if a woman takes her niece from the village to work in town as a house maid but end up selling her in a brothel it is difficult to know this scam if the girl herself or someone else does not tip the police," explained Mr Laizer.

According to the head of the Anti Traffic Unit at the CID, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Afwilie Mponi, the victims of the crime are not only young girls but also boys and men.

"There is lack of public awareness and this is a very big obstacle in the fight against this vice," said Mponi.

He said most victims of sex slavery rarely report the matter to the police due to lack of public awareness. He said there were legislations governing this vice, including the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2008.

"According to the law a culprit of this heinous crime if found guilty can spend up to 20 years in jail and all property gained as a result of the vice be confiscated and nationalized," said Mr Mponi.

"The Government has put in place the Anti-Trafficking Committee (ATC) which comprises officials from various relevant institutions including non governmental organizations," said Mr Mponi.

Among other things, the ATC is taxed with rescuing victims of syndicate and provide them with temporary basic needs.

It is also vested with responsibility of rehabilitating victims using social welfare officers who are skilled in provision of legal assistance, psychological and medical services.

He said the most common destination for sex and labour slavery from the country was Oman. Other destinations are United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the European Union.

He said that not only that people were being trafficked from Tanzania to abroad but there were also people being trafficked from other countries to Tanzania. Such countries that traffic people into Tanzania, he said, were mainly Yemen, China and India.

"He cited recent reports of an albino who was trafficked from Kenya to Tanzania after was promised a job in the country but upon arrival he was allegedly taken to an albino body parts dealer. He was to be sold for 400m/-. The suspect pleaded guilty to the offence and was sentenced to 17 years in jail," said Mr Mponi.

The Minister for Community Development, Gender and Children Ms Sophia Simba, said that victims of human trafficking and sex slavery were mostly very poor, illiterate, or living under difficult conditions.

Others, she said, were hood winked about better life and opportunities in cities such as Dar es Salaam, Mwanza and Arusha but upon arrival they ended up being sold to criminals, in most cases, the brothel owners. "The main way of tackling this problem is to educate these people. A person who has at least secondary education cannot easily be lured into this trap," said Ms Simba.

She cited Iringa Region where most of the victims were being sourced but the problem has been reduced after special campaigns conducted in primary and secondary schools as well as in communities paid off. She said some other victims went back to the sex business even after being rescued because they had developed the habit.

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