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One step closer in the fight against Trafficking in Persons

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On 1-2 December 2011, Johannesburg hosted a technical meeting on Enhancing Trafficking in Persons (TIPs) criminal investigation, prosecution and victim and witness protection among African and European countries within the framework of the AU.COMMIT campaign and the Africa-EU Migration, Mobility and Employment Partnership (MME).

The meeting, which gathered States from all over Africa and the EU, International Organisations and Civil Society Organisations, featured the exchange of national and regional experiences and good practices on the technical themes of the meeting.

The meeting was opened by Olawale Maiyegun, the AU Commission’s Director for Social Affairs, and Christophe Larose, the Head of Sector of Governance and Social Sectors at the EU Delegation to the Republic of South Africa. Director Maiyegun emphasised that the meeting highlights the close links between Africa and Europe and the common goal to better manage migration to the benefit of Africa, Europe, and the migrants themselves. Mr. Larose pointed out that South Africa is a well suited venue to discuss challenges and policies around human trafficking, as the Southern African region is vulneraable to this still relatively unknown crime.

The meeting aimed to deliver recommendations and potential initiatives for enforcing the prosecution pillar of AU.COMMIT in Western, Central, Eastern and Southern Africa.

TIPs legal frameworks to prosecute traffickers

AU and EU member states have made significant efforts to fight trafficking in persons, especially in terms of adopting legal frameworks which cater for victim and witness protection and the prosecution of traffickers.

Certain African Regional Economic Communities, such as the ECOWAS in West Africa, have taken steps to enhance transnational cooperation to effectively address human trafficking. To this end ECOWAS has adopted a regional action plan which calls for the harmonisation of relevant legislation and cross border cooperation. EU Member States have endeavoured to harmonise criminal legislation which pertain to human trafficking and the issuance of residence permits for victims of trafficking, and have adopted an action plan on best practices, standards and procedures for combating and preventing trafficking (more about EU policies). However both continents still face gaps between legislation and effective implementation on the ground, in particular in the field of prosecution, and gathering reliable and comprehensive data on human trafficking. A further challenge is enhancing coherence and synergies between national and regional anti-trafficking efforts and optimising their global impact.

Discussions on victim identification and the prosecution of traffickers highlighted important challenges that investigators and prosecutors face, such as the fear of testifying, cultural practices and traditions. Mrs Patience Quaye, the Head of Ghana’s Anti Human Trafficking Police Unit Police stated that “the use of fear and voodoo is a strong tool that traffickers possess to silence victims and thus provides a daily challenge in prosecution”. Participants were reminded of the importance of ensuring a proper follow-up with victims, which looks at their holistic needs and longer term reintegration. In Ghana, a follow-up of the children rescued from traffickers allowed the Ghanaian administration to enrol them in new schools, thus facilitating their reintegration.

Transnational criminal investigation and cooperation

Obtaining comprehensive figures on trafficking, and analysing this data, is necessary to understand and address the related trends, routes and push and pull factors. Stakeholders at the national, regional and international level need to contribute to and sustain this exchange of vital information. The creation of special units and the establishment of regional focal points that could liaise with relevant organisations and authorities, such as Interpol and government institutions, were part of the suggestions to improve information exchange between origin, transit and destination countries.

In conclusion, partners were reminded that since the Lisbon Summit, dialogue and cooperation between Africa and Europe on migration, mobility and employment issues have intensified. In this context, and within the Africa-EU Partnership on Migration, Mobility and Employment, the struggle against human trafficking remains a priority.