The United Nations World Day Against Trafficking in Persons was marked last Friday (August 30) with the launch of a theme that victims of human trafficking at the centre of the campaign and highlights the importance of listening to and learning from survivors of human trafficking.
According to a human trafficking awareness document sent to Gateway News by Natasha Ramkisson-Kara spokesman for the National Prosecuting Authority in KwaZulu-Natal the campaign portrays survivors as key actors in the fight against human trafficking and focusses on the crucial role they play in establishing effective measures to prevent this crime, identify and rescue victims and support them on their road to rehabilitation.
The document produced by the KZN Multisectoral Team includes the following tips to help parents protect their children from becoming victims of human traffickers who typically prey on vulnerable women and children.
As parents, it is essential that you:
• Know your child’s whereabouts at all times.
• Teach your child your first and last name.
• At a very early age, teach your child their name, address and telephone number.
• Show you children the nearest police station.
• Teach them how to call 10111 for help (and the TIP helpline number below).
• Make sure your children know how to make local and long-distance telephone calls.
• Never leave children alone in a car, not even for a few seconds.
• Establish strict procedures for picking up children at school, after movies, at friends’ homes.
• Establish a family code word that only you, your child and a trusted relative or friend knows.
• Teach your child to ask for the code word when approached by someone offering them a ride.
• Have photographs taken of your children at least four times a year.
• Make a note of birthmarks or other distinguishing features.
• Have your child fingerprinted and store the prints in a safe, easily accessible place in your home.
• Teach your children to never leave home without your permission.
• Teach your children never wander off, to avoid deserted places, and to avoid shortcuts through alleys. They are safer in groups.
• Tell them to never give any information to anyone especially over the telephone including their name and address, or indicate they are alone.
• Remind them to keep doors locked and admit only authorized people into the house.
• Teach them – If accosted by a stranger in a mall to scream ‘This is not my Daddy/ Mommy’ or ‘Stranger’, to drop to the floor and practice this with them. This is the one time all manners can go out of the window.
• Remind your children to never accept a lift from someone you don’t know, even if the child knows them.
• Talk to your children about being aware of strangers or vehicles loitering nearby in a simple, non-threatening way.
• Listen to your child when he or she discusses anyone new they have met or spoken with when you weren’t around.
• Very small children should play only in areas away from the street, such as a backyard, or in a play area supervised by a responsible adult.
• Remind your children to come straight home from school unless you have made other arrangements.
• Teach them never to enter anyone’s home without your approval.
Regarding the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on trafficking in people (TIP), the document says: “The Covid-19 pandemic is putting the world’s economic resources under enormous strain. It has highlighted the existing systemic and deeply entrenched economic and societal inequalities that are among the root causes of TiP in South Africa.
“Increases in unemployment and reduced incomes, (especially for informal sector workers), mean that many people who were already vulnerable find themselves in even worse circumstances.
“Many people working in the clothing industry, agriculture, farming, mining, forestry, manufacturing and domestic work, who were living in subsistence conditions, have lost their jobs and their wages.
“History has shown us that there has always been a nexus between Trafficking in Persons and vulnerable people therefore the economic crisis has the potential to increase Trafficking in Persons as more and more people become vulnerable to exploitation.
“Victims of Trafficking in Persons may not self-identify as victims or believe that because of the prevailing condition due to the Covid-19 pandemic, they have little or no alternative but to submit to exploitation.
“With a lack of alternatives to sustain vulnerable persons, exploitation is sometimes perceived as the only manner of earning any income, despite how little that may be.
“The main reasons include the fact that trafficking victims are often exploited in illegal, informal or unregulated sectors (e.g. sex industry, domestic settings, agriculture and construction).
“With limitations on service delivery during Covid-19 and changes in methodology identification of victims becomes even more challenging as organised crime moves more underground. There is evidence that some people in the sex industry moved their operations online due to lockdown measures.
“As children spend more time on the internet for online learning, parents must monitor their children’s online activities to prevent them from falling victims of online predators and Trafficking in Persons.”
The awareness document also lists the following signs that a person might have been trafficked:
• Evidence of being controlled
• Evidence of inability to move or leave a job
• Bruises or other signs of physical abuse
• Fear or depression
• Not speaking on own behalf and/or non-English speaking
• No passport or other forms of identification or documentation
• Is hungry-malnourished or inappropriately dressed (based on weather conditions or surroundings)
• Shows signs of drug addiction
• Receives little or no payment for work done
• No days off or work excessively long hours of work
• Have no access to their earnings
All cases of human trafficking must be reported to SAPS – 10111
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