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Covid-19 exacerbates human trafficking: Letsosa


 Seabata Mahao

The Minister of Home Affairs Motlalentoa Letsosa has confirmed that the Covid-19 pandemic has aggravated the surge in human trafficking due to lack of jobs.

He said this during the sensitisation of Basotho domestic workers plying their trade in the neighbouring South Africa about Trafficking in Person in Mohale’s Hoek where the Ministry held a session alongside the Basotho Diaspora Association (SA Chapter) together with the Domestic Workers Association (Basali Ba Koatileng).

Letsosa said several human trafficking cases were reported during the Christmas holidays due to the escalating rate of unemployment in the country that was exacerbated by the raging Covid-19 pandemic. He said most human trafficking victims always ended up as underpaid labourers or work slaves in South Africa and elsewhere.

“If there is one thing that we have learned in the past years, it is that human trafficking does not stop during a pandemic. The concurrence of the increased number of individuals at risk, the traffickers’ ability to capitalise on competing crisis, and the diversion of resources to pandemic response efforts have resulted in an ideal environment for human trafficking to flourish and evolve,” he said.

Some of the tell-tale signs of trafficked persons include older people who would be travelling with young children that do not appear to be related. 

“Sometimes the older person will travel with children that speak a different language from them and these children often look worried and confused,” he noted.

He added that, traffickers want to ensure that their victims do not escape therefore, they will closely guard them, not allowing them to roam freely in the airport or at the borders. The children may have signs of physical abuse including bruises, burns, and scars. They may also look malnourished.

The minister further explained that traffickers would want to ensure that their victims were enslaved. Also, a victim of human trafficking will rarely make eye contact to avoid any casual conversation. Some traffickers coach their victims on what to say and how to act during travel to ensure that they do not escape

He urged Basotho to report any suspicious case so that the perpetrators can be thoroughly investigated, prosecuted and finally convicted. He urged all the Government Ministries to work hand-in-hand to ensure convictions in such cases.

Meanwhile, the Principal Secretary of the ministry, Tumelo Raboletsi stated that, the high rate of unemployment in Lesotho makes the citizens vulnerable to Human Trafficking as Basotho leave home to find greener pastures after being promised legitimate jobs, marriages, or scholarships only to find that it was a trick to turn them into slaves.

“Knowledge is power, under the leadership of Honourable Motlalentoa Letsosa, Lesotho was declared to have improved from tier 3 to tier 2 ‘junk status’ which only shows that the Government is making an effort to combat this scourge. The road ahead is however still long in order to maintain the developmental relationship with other countries,” said Raboletsi.

The President of Basotho Diaspora Association Halieo Lelosa said the joint sensitization is only the beginning of the journey in the fight agaisnt Human Trafficking. While on the other hand, member of the Domestic Workers Association Setofi Lebona shared a heart breaking testimony of her sister (Lineo Lebona) who was brutally murdered after being raped by the person who falsely promised her a legitimate job.

“All these happened in 2015 and the murderer finally got convicted in 2018 after a long trial. Human Trafficking exists, we need to hold hands to fight it and it is all possible with the help of our Government,” Lebona said.

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