On World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Lesotho led a march in Maputsoe, Leribe district, to raise awareness about the grave issue of human trafficking and the need for concerted efforts to combat it.
The event brought together advocates, victims, government officials, and community members, highlighting the importance of protecting Basotho from the clutches of traffickers and ensuring their safety when crossing borders.
Tsebo Mosoeunyane, a representative from the Beautiful Dream Society, emphasised the societyâ€™s dedication to safeguarding citizens from being trafficked. He highlighted the challenges they face in preventing human trafficking, especially as some individuals manage to cross borders and later fall victim to trafficking.
According to Mosoeunyane, global statistics show that 70 percent of victims are women and 30 percent are men, with many being lured by the promise of employment opportunities in foreign countries.
â€œWe make sure that we interview everyone about where they are going, and if we find unreliable information, we intercept them,â€ said Mosoeunyane, underscoring the societyâ€™s commitment to detecting and preventing trafficking attempts.
A Victimâ€™s Harrowing Account
During the event, a victim of human trafficking shared a harrowing account of how he was deceived by someone he knew and trusted. The young man revealed that he was promised the chance to pursue his dream of becoming an international soccer player by a Nigerian man from his village.
The offer, he narrated, seemed promising, and his family supported his decision to embark on this journey. However, upon arriving in Dubai, he was coerced into opening bank accounts instead of pursuing his passion for soccer.
â€œI was promised to make my career of being a soccer player to be a dream come true by a Nigerian man who lived in the same village. He said he got a brother who can help me fulfill it, and because I loved soccer and wanted the best from it, I approached my family about the idea, and they agreed that I can go and work with a Nigerian brother,â€ he revealed.
However, the victim soon realised that the promises were empty, and he found himself trapped in an exploitative situation.
He narrated how he was manipulated into signing a marriage certificate and subjected to physical and emotional abuse when he attempted to resist.
Fortunately, the victim managed to escape with the help of a security guard, who saw through the traffickersâ€™ deception and intervened.
The victim urged young people to be cautious and vigilant, emphasising the importance of being informed about the dangers of human trafficking.
Governmentâ€™s Measures to Protect Citizens
In response to the increasing cases of trafficking in Lesotho, the government has taken several measures to protect its citizens, Lebona Lephema, Minister of Local Government, Chieftainship, Home Affairs, and Police, said.
Lephema assured attendees that the government was committed to providing support and shelter for victims.
â€œThe government has also engaged Global Fund through my ministry to expand the support to the victims of trafficking in persons in three districts, namely Maseru, Mohale’s Hoek, and Leribe,â€ the Minister said.
Additionally, he added, the government is designing a training curriculum to enhance crime prevention strategies at various border gates.
The United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator, Amanda Mukwashi, addressed the underlying factors that contribute to human trafficking, emphasising poverty and unemployment as significant catalysts.
â€œHuman trafficking is a violation of human rights and a crime that destroys the victims, physically, mentally, and emotionally. The poverty of opportunity and resources, as well as lack of social power, are other important contributing factors,â€ said Mukwashi.
She acknowledged the challenges in combating human trafficking, especially with irregular migration to South Africa driven by desperation for better opportunities.
Despite the difficulties, Mukwashi stressed the importance of continuous efforts to protect vulnerable individuals from falling prey to traffickers.
The World Day Against Trafficking in Persons serves as a reminder of the urgent need to address the issue of human trafficking, protect young people from exploitation, and ensure their rights and dignity are preserved.