The Salvation Army’s helpline is receiving up to a dozen calls every week, 80% of which are related to requests for help in cases of human trafficking.
Expressing its deep concern at the apparent spike over the past three months, as measured by the calls to the church’s hotline, Capt Juanita Wright, its anti-human trafficking co-ordinator, said: “Many of the calls for help involve people who have been tricked into human trafficking situations as a result of the difficult economic circumstances which SA is experiencing.
“We appeal to people to be much more vigilant about human trafficking. It is real and it is happening in our society to people of all ages. If an offer of employment sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Wright said people most vulnerable to human trafficking are children, teenagers, young women, refugees, job seekers and people living on the street.
“These people are preyed upon in various ways and are literally tricked into going somewhere with their traffickers, and subsequently held against their will.”
She said people are trafficked for various reasons:
- labour exploitation/slave labour — this includes offers of jobs such as child-minding, hairdressing, modelling and hotel work, etc;
- prostitution (usually paid very little) or sexual slavery (not paid);
- forced marriage — women forced to marry mineworkers or young girls forced to marry older men; and
- harvesting of body organs for sale once the trafficked victim has been killed.
Wright asked the public to help combat human trafficking in their communities by learning to recognise trafficked people, who:
- are often unable to speak the local language;
- appear to be trapped in their job or the place they stay;
- may have bruises and other signs of physical abuse; and
- do not have identification documents (passport, ID, refugee or asylum papers).
She urged people to report places where you suspect trafficked people are kept (for example, brothels, farms, factories or shebeens) to the local authorities and the media, and to report people you suspect may be traffickers to the local authorities such as police or NGOs, and the media.