Sunday, December 5, 2021

Bill to stem the tide of human trafficking in Botswana

The long-awaited human trafficking Bill is at an advanced stage and might be presented before parliament during the winter session. The bill seeks to criminalize human trafficking. Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Defense Justice and Security, Augustine Makgonatsotlhe told Sunday Standard in a telephone interview that the February session is dominated by budget deliberations, so window for bills opens during the winter sitting.

“There are many bills that are tabled during that period, so priority is made and we hope this bill would be able to sail through parliament then,” he said. If presented this winter, then the bill’s presentation would be about three years past the time the Minister of Defence Justice and Security hoped to present it to parliament. He in 2010 told The Telegraph newspaper that he hoped to table the bill in 2011. Among reasons why the bill have been waited for is that Botswana’s former colonial power, Britain did in 2008 announce that ‘Botswana citizens would need visas to visit the United Kingdom unless the Botswana government reduces the risk posed by Batswana’. Thus it was listed among 11 countries that have been warned to address the risk they pose. British media then quoted a Home Office reports which identified bogus passports, criminal acts and terrorism as possible risks posed by visitors. Batswana citizens were reportedly stranded in Canada and England after being recruited for good jobs and scholarship there.

It was believed Botswana was targeted because of passport fraud and suspicions of being used as a conduit for human trafficking. A number of foreign nationals had been arrested around the world travelling on forged or stolen Botswana passports. British Home office commissioned survey identified 330 cases of confirmed victims of trafficking- most of them from China and Africa- but warned of unknown quantity that had not come to the attention of the authorities. This justifies a local Non Governmental Organization’s expression that presentation of the human trafficking bill to parliament is a milestone for it. Child line Botswana, an organization committed to the welfare of children in the country is one of those that pressurized the government to come with the bill.

Its Program Officer, Olebile Machete revealed in an interview last week that his organization has done a lot to ensure human trafficking gets the focus it deserves. Besides having helped in repatriation of some young Zimbabwean victims the organization established a steering committee that focused on human trafficking. The committee sensitized the society about trafficking existence. Asked whether the incidences of human trafficking are currently controllable Makgonatsotlhe said they have reduced, though he could not indicate by numbers. “The presence of the legislation if the bill sails through parliament is hoped to effectively tackle the problem,” he concluded.

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