Friday, August 26, 2005

City a 'human trafficking centre'

By Candes Keating

Cape Town and its surrounding regions have been identified as a centre for one of the fastest-growing and most lucrative enterprises in the world - human trafficking.

A staggering 800 000 people a year are trafficked across international borders into sweatshops, the sex industry and agriculture sectors, with women and children the most vulnerable.

In some incidents people are also trafficked for their organs, whereas others are forced to engage in illegal activities such as drug running and housebreaking.

This grim reality emerged yesterday during the launch of the Stop Child Trafficking Project, a joint initiative by child rights organisation Molo Songololo and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Speaking at the launch, at the Slave Lodge in the city, Jonathan Lucas of the UN office said South Africa's legislation and law enforcement was inefficient in dealing with the trafficking of people, which he described as one of the fastest growing industries worldwide.

The government had appointed a task team to develop anti-trafficking legislation, which will be presented to parliament by the end of the year.

Lucas commended the country for its commitment to fighting trafficking but added there was a "pressing need" for further initiatives regarding prevention, awareness raising, co-operation and training.

The project, he said, complemented the national efforts of the government. "This project aims at enhancing the provincial capacity to prevent child trafficking, within, into and from the Western Province."

Molo Songololo director Patric Solomons said the programme aimed to provide victim support in the form of medical, psychological, and shelter assistance while also creating awareness in the community about the issue.

The programme will also include education and training workshops for key roleplayers such as members of the police force, educators and staff from non-government organisations.

Community Safety MEC Leonard Ramatlakane said the city remained a "targeted port of entry" by child traffickers, creating "a major problem".

He said the Western Cape had experienced growing concern over children who went missing.

Ramatlakane called on communities, police, government and non-government organisations to join the campaign.

"Communities should be vigilant and look after children in their surroundings. The time is now to rise up for this occasion to ensure that our future generations are protected," he said.

Published on the web by Cape Argus on August 26, 2005.


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