The New Times (Kigali)

28 July 2013

Rwanda: Step Up Efforts Against Human Trafficking

Police in Uganda this week rescued six Rwandan girls from sex slavery in the neighbouring country's western district of Bushenyi as part of a broad, region-wide crackdown on crime.

This particular result of the operation, codenamed 'Usalama', was shocking to say the least, especially the fact that the discovery was in a township in a far-flung rural area, and not in a major urban centre, which points to the sophisticated tactics employed by human traffickers.

While this crime is believed to be at significantly low levels in Rwanda, the latest development means that we rest on our laurels at our own perils.

The last time Rwandan Police announced arrests involving alleged human traffickers was in April 2012, when three suspects were arrested in two separate but related incidents.

Yet there remains little vigilance in public domain. Some people still think they can recognise a human trafficker at first sight since they assume that offenders must be strangers. That is being naïve and dangerous.

Human traffickers, just like drug dealers and other criminals, look no different from the ordinary people. They live among us; they are our relatives and sometimes acquaintances.

But they belong to dreaded and well-entranced networks which continue to exploit innocent souls, many of whom fall into their trap after promises of good jobs, education and better life abroad.

Members of the public should not take this crime for granted. Rather they should step up vigilance, and report any suspicious cases to Police and other security organs.

With the many projects in the country, especially at community level, no level of desperation should lead our people into the smiling faces of people offering jobs and other amenities in foreign lands. Curbing sex slavery begins with you. Ensure you have a red tape to check your moves.

Police, the immigration department and other relevant institutions, should equally take drastic measures to reverse this worrying trend, particularly through strengthening collaboration with regional counterparts.

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