Thursday, June 30, 2022

Beware! That jungle-fever romance might actually be human-trafficking scam

The government has acknowledged awareness about an elaborate human trafficking scam that begins with romance between foreign men and Batswana women, leads to pregnancy and birth of children and ends with Prince Charming taking the children on a one-way trip back home. In a follow-up interview with Sunday StandardKgosi Rebecca Banika of Chobe Region said that immediately after leaving the country, these men cut off all communication with the mothers. She identified the culprits as European, Asian and African men.

In the just-ended meeting of Ntlo ya Dikgosi, Banika asked the Minister of Justice what the government was doing about “subtle human trafficking activities done by some foreign nationals who impregnate innocent girls and later on relocate the children abroad.” In acknowledging that such scam was indeed being pulled on unwitting women, the Acting Minister of Justice, Meshack Mthimkhulu, told the house that the Ministry of Defence has received reports about incidents that Banika had described in her question.

As regards action that the government has taken, the minister mentioned the promulgation of human trafficking law in 2014 and subsequent establishment of the Human Trafficking Prohibition Committee and Human Trafficking Unit and the development of the Anti-human Trafficking Action Plan (2018-2022). Additionally, the Ministry has appointed focal persons on human trafficking in every district and sub-district who educate members of local communities, including both political and traditional leaders, about human trafficking and action they should take when they suspect it.

In 2017, the Ministry collaborated with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and SADC to train 17 judges and 47 magistrates on human trafficking. The exercise was repeated in 2021 with 11 judges and 16 magistrates. Mthimkhulu said that on the whole, the Ministry has delivered more than 75 training sessions for frontline officers, the civil society and members of the public. He assured the house that the government will continue providing this public education in order to enable people to detect clandestine and non-clandestine human trafficking and report it to authorities.

Speaking to Sunday Standard afterwards, Banika, who is Pandamatenga kgosi, said that she personally knows of some unwitting women who fell victim to this scam and only discovered it when it was way too late.

“Immediately after leaving the country, there is communication breakdown and it takes time before the women report to the police,” she added. “In most cases, we hear of these cases from relatives and make a follow-up. That is when we advise the women to report to the police.”

There is something that is even more disturbing that the Ntlo ya Dikgosi discussion didn’t get into – the fate of the kidnapped children. It has been reported that children are trafficked for such purposes as domestic and military labour, sex work, criminal activity and adoption. In the case of Batswana children trafficked in the manner Banika described, the fathers would be the ones selling them.

July 30 marks the UN World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.

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