Hawks sting raises human trafficking fears
Johannesburg – Fears are mounting that there could be a human-trafficking syndicate operating in the country.
The Hawks have confirmed that a sting operation in Marble Hall, Limpopo, on Wednesday secured the rescue of 59 Malawian nationals, including two minors.
This comes after the rescue of 57 Malawian children in North West – who were also believed to have been in the clutches of a human-trafficking ring.
Hawks spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said: “We suspect there may be other groups smuggling people across the country’s borders. We intercepted the truck in Marble Hall and the drivers were arrested. They appeared in court today on human trafficking charges and the matter has been postponed to Tuesday.”
Mulaudzi said the rise in the illegal transportation of Malawians into South Africa for cheap labour was of grave concern.
“What makes it worse is that victims won’t co-operate. They insist they came across the Beit Bridge border. This can’t be true as none have certified documents.”
Mulaudzi said the 59 rescued on Wednesday were in a place of safety and it was imperative that the victims understood that police were only trying to help establish their status as trafficked individuals.
Social development spokesman Lumka Oliphant said officials had sought help from the Malawian embassy. “[With regard to] the first case we cannot deport the children until investigations are completed. We want to find out who they are, where they come from and how they got here,” she said.
Oliphant added the department’s greatest challenge was the language barrier.
“We have asked the Department of International Relations and Co-operation to assist with an interpreter and the Malawian consul to ensure the children can be accounted for in their country and will be safe before we hand them over,” she said.
Salvation Army spokeswoman Carin Holmes said: “When trafficked people are found, they are traumatised and fearful. We need to do all we can to protect them and alert authorities.”
About 30 000 kids are trafficked into South Africa each year.
AfricaCheck, the non-profit verification organisation, disputes this number saying not enough statistics are available.