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Hands on deck to fight human trafficking

Business

…as Government commit to invest in the fight against Trafficking in persons

Ntsoaki Motaung

Minister of Home Affairs Motlalentoa Letsosa said an undisclosed amount of money is going to be injected to intensify in the fight against trafficking in persons. 

This he said in a bilateral dialogue with the United States Embassy and key government ministries mandated to discuss Lesotho’s progress on anti- Trafficking in Persons (TIP) efforts in line with recommendations from the Department of State’s 2021 TIP Report.

Letsosa said the government has rolled-sleeves and is ready to allocate funds for the fight against TIP for the fiscal year of 2022/2023 from the government’s coffers.

“We are pleased to announce that the government has opened a specific bank account with a commercial bank to address TIP related matters specifically to support victims of trafficking and the government’s commitment with partner organisations such as Beautiful Dreams Society and others,” he said.

He indicated that the government has not only opened a bank account, but have also been able to reallocate funds to the said account and the government will make sure there is appropriate funding in the upcoming financial year 2022/2023.

He said the Ministry is going to partner with the Republic of South Africa effective from next week and throughout the festive season as they will be conducting a series of awareness campaigns with their South African counterparts.

“On Friday, 12 November 2021 (today), we are meeting Majakathata Taxi Association, Basotho diaspora, Mine Workers, South African Police Services, and others. We are targeting about five regions in South Africa where Basotho are found in large numbers, and those include Welkom, Durban, Pretoria, Western Cape,” he said.

“We are pleased to report that with respect to eight cases before the Director of Public Prosecutions, summonses have been issued to continue with prosecution. Further, the Cabinet Sub-Committee has directed the Multi Sectoral Committee to resuscitate the Task Team to Investigate and Prosecute TIP cases and allocate necessary resources. It has also directed that the SADC Data Collection System be fully utilized by all concerned parties,” he said.

He said the Ministries of Labour and Employment, of Home Affairs – Department of Immigration and of Police (LMPS) – Anti-Trafficking Unit have an operational joint task force for inspection of the regularity of foreign workers and employers to ensure compliance with the law and to detect potential cases of trafficking. As a result of this effort, there are cases being detected and investigations are on-going and this will determine whether or not government officials are involved. 

Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador Rebecca E. Gonzales said as the U.S. Ambassador to Lesotho, she will continue to reiterate that combating human trafficking is a top priority for the United States government.

“My team and I want to support the Government of Lesotho to make rapid progress toward achieving the recommendations in the 2021 TIP Report to avoid any assistance restrictions. We want to see Lesotho’s meaningful anti-TIP progress that would warrant an upgrade to Tier 2 by the end of February 2022 because this means that we will have supported the protection of crucial foreign assistance and the country’s proposed second Millennium Challenge Corporation compact,” she said.

Gonzales lauded Letsosa for his leadership in taking critical and decisive action in working to address several vitally important human trafficking concerns.

According to Gonzales, Letsosa’s leadership has been instrumental in the government’s response to many of the issues she raised over the last year – including the allocation of funding for shelter and protective services for victims of trafficking.

“Working with key community partners, like Beautiful Dreams Society, the Government of Lesotho, through the Ministry of Home Affairs, he has started to prioritize the safekeeping of Lesotho citizens who have been victimized by traffickers.  Minister Letsosa has also engaged in extensive outreach to sensitize local communities and officials on the importance of preventing trafficking in persons,” she said.   

“I also want to thank Minister of Police and Public Safety Lepota Sekola for his engagement and collaboration with U.S. law enforcement agencies to increase efforts to investigate and prosecute traffickers, including officials complicit in trafficking crimes.  Specifically, sustained efforts to fund the police trafficking and smuggling unit and to establish a focal point in all ten districts will ensure effective responsiveness to all potential trafficking cases in Lesotho. Our team at the U.S. Embassy is committed to supporting these initiatives in partnership with the Ministry of Police under the umbrella of our newly signed Memorandum of Cooperation, and we have immediate plans to support the development of critical skills through law enforcement training and other professional development exchanges,” she said.  

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