Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Batswana stranded abroad should be rescued

A few months ago the Director General of DIS (Directorate of Intelligence and Security) issued a public statement outlining incidents through which many Batswana have found themselves stranded abroad.

Many of these Batswana have since become sex slaves in brothels or are facing other forms of abuse.
While many of them would want to come back home, there simply is no way for them to do that.

We revisit this issue not just because of its importance and urgency but also because the estimates by DIS at the time have turned out to be somewhat conservative.

Ever since the statement by DIS, it has come to light that the real number of Botswana hostages overseas is much higher.

This is a situation to which as a moral nation we cannot continue turning a blind eye any longer.

We note with some level of reassurance that Botswana Government has at least in principle underscored the gravity of the issue at hand and steps are being put in place not only to bring home these hostages but also to close down the gaps that exist here at home as to have allowed these people to end up trapped abroad in the first place.

Our hope as Sunday Standard is that this issue will not be politicised.
It is also our hope that the matter will be handled on purely humanitarian and moral basis.

It is only when the matter is not politicised that it will unite rather than divide the nation.

It is only when the issue is not politicised that nobody will get an opportunity to make light of what is by any measure turning into a national crisis.

The truth of the matter is that many of the citizens we are talking about chose at free will to seek work and other opportunities abroad.

Even then we should at all cost avoid the easy temptation to blame the victim.
“Once they have travelled to their destinations many of the victims have found themselves stranded, while some have been forced into circumstances such as prostitution, involuntary labour and or refugees,” said a statement from DIS.

According to DIS, these people are victims of criminal syndicates who often approach them or lure them by way of seemingly legitimate newspaper advertisements as well as e-mailed invitations.

It is a crafty work of some Botswana citizens and some expatriate, notably from West Africa and Asia.

“The sophistication of some of these operations is further manifested by their working through seemingly legitimate, registered businesses, in particular locally based travel agencies, and links with fellow agents in the countries of destination.”

In return for promised opportunities, victims are convinced to pay the agents registration and service fees as well as additional money for their air tickets.

“In some cases said air tickets are produced but later discovered to have been fraudulently purchased, thus stranding the victims while placing them in legal jeopardy,” says DIS.

These people, many of them young women who are desperate for opportunities to further their studies or get employment, have ended up mostly in Europe, North America, Australia or Asia working as sex slaves or, if they are fortunate, surviving on some menial jobs for which they never applied or were promised.

They are victims of travel agencies here in Botswana who collude with some bogus labour bureaus who purport to be working for overseas companies and or colleges.

It is not a secret that Botswana, like the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa, is facing many challenges with regard to high unemployment levels.
The desperation among the young Batswana has been building over the last 15 years or so.

As a result young Batswana who cannot get employment here at home have become easy prey, soft targets if you will, of some of the most evil souls that have made it their commerce to trade in other people across the world.

In the past, we have always heard stories about human trafficking. Of course, in many instances, we did not believe such stories. When we did believe such stories, it never occurred to us that such stories would be about Batswana, our own people who we know closely.

As of now, what should concern us is that young Batswana have become sex toys in the foreign lands.
Uppermost in our minds should be finding ways of bringing these young people back home.

Without carelessly discounting circumstances on just how they ended up in such places in the first instance, we should for now not make it a priority to point out their mistakes and follies.

Pointing out how they ended up in such a situation can only derail us from the immediate task at hand, which is rescuing them and delivering them back home safely.

It is a national responsibility from which we cannot run away.

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