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Human trafficking incidents have spiked during pandemic: John Jeffery

More children have been trafficked during the pandemic. File photo.
More children have been trafficked during the pandemic. File photo.
Image: Artit Oubkaew/123RF

Gauteng saw an increasing number of incidents of children being trafficked for sexual exploitation due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This was revealed by justice and constitutional development deputy minister John Jeffery at an event in commemoration of the World Day Against Human Trafficking in Pretoria on Friday.

He said the risk factors changed during Covid-19 due to higher levels of unemployment and loss of family income.

“It must be noted that although the numbers are not large, SA is seeing an increasing number of trafficking convictions. There is no significant evidence of citizens travelling abroad and to SA for child sex tourism,” he said.

Jeffery said the convictions provided significant insights.

“Children are the most at risk for sex trafficking and forced labour. The vulnerabilities identified were more prevalent in girl children. Children at higher risk were from parents who were in conflict in their relationships or from parents who have disadvantaged themselves or were victims of substance abuse.

“Some parents were responsible for trafficking their children for purposes of sexual exploitation due to loss of income as a result of Covid-19. Some parents seek work on farms but they do not want to be rescued from traffickers because they want to preserve their employment.

“Children were exploited for purposes including sexual exploitation, drug trafficking and forced marriages,” he said.

From the data received during the reporting period, it is evident that from suspected and confirmed victims, females are most likely to be trafficked. Females contribute to 90% and above of suspected and confirmed victims.

“In respect of suspected victims, foreign nationals are more likely to enter the country for work opportunities and not necessarily as trafficking victims. 

“Access to asylum processes has been temporarily suspended and will be restored at an appropriate time with the easing of lockdown restrictions. The country has rather experienced a number of asylum seekers abandoning the process and opting to be evacuated to countries of origin.  

“Border closures and movement restrictions of migrants have reduced lot of activities  which have severely disrupted trafficking activities,” said the deputy minister.


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