I wrote this originally for publication at Africa Youth and Talent Summit 2018
Human Trafficking has become a global phenomenon lately. The world woke up in a shock lately when The CNN’s videos of Africans being auctioned in a slave market in Libya surfaced online. This according to some observers and some victims of this wickedness, is a tip of the iceberg compared to what happens in the dark which is not yet documented. In fact, talking about all these is going too far. These practices thrive and blossoms in our midst every day. Let’s just consider the following scenarios – what of your neighbour who has a house help who does not go to school while his or her children attend school? Or those aunties and uncles who promise to help us get us house-helps from the rural areas? And wait, what of that young child who was employed to help your parents at home that was probably brought from a different state or community? Since I got interested in this topic, I have tried to speak to some of these people (innocent victims) who I know personally or become friends with and all their responses had a single denominator which is this: “If I had known I was coming here for this type of work, I wouldn’t have accepted it or even come to live here…” My intention at the end of this article is to deal with our ignorance about this subject and be sure we understand what we are doing when we ignorantly play a part in the process of Human Trafficking.
Human Trafficking, according to ‘Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons’ defines Trafficking in Persons as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.
From the definition above, we see that Human Trafficking phenomenon incorporates lots of activities of which the end product is to bring profit/satisfaction to the persons involved. Traffickers are often part of a group — it’s known that organised crime networks around the world are involved in human trafficking, however, there are a few cases of these which ignorantly happen around us daily.
For clarity of this subject, I will discuss these Human Trafficking under three major headings and each case of Human Trafficking has all these three elements. Our definition above lists several actions that Human Traffickers involve in. These actions include recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring, receipt etc. I guess and know several of us reading this might have ignorantly rebroadcasted messages on social media requesting for people to apply for jobs in a different city or country that will pay them something above their average pay where they presently live. We might have ignorantly had a minor entrusted to us, to travel with us to meet another aunty or uncle in the city. We might have had someone sent to our house to pass a few days before someone comes to pick them up. The list goes on and on of different activities we ignorantly involve ourselves in which makes us culprits.
Someone who involves in the act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harbouring, receiving or controlling others for the purpose of any form of exploitation is a trafficker. I will not dwell much on the case of the organised traffickers who do this for a living, I would prefer to discuss situation where we might fall victims ignorantly or ways we can help victims when we find see them.
As human beings, we are faced with situations where we have to offer a form of assistance or help someone who we perceive is in need. The questions we must always ask ourselves is this. Does this boy/girl know where he is going? Why must I harbour him/her in my house – even if the perpetuator formulates and tells very convincing stories why you must. Does the victim sound like he or she is sure of what they are talking about? Asking some of these questions will go a long way to helping us decide what to do when faced with a similar situation. Another way we can also help to stop trafficking at this stage is to talk about it and expose some of the techniques used by the perpetuators to hoodwink their victims. It is also a good thing to encourage people to pursue their dream and aspirations where they are and only make a move when an opportunity they are sure of comes their way.
Traffickers use a variety of tactics to get their victims to do what they want and to maintain control. This includes deception, coercion, violence, abduction, fraud, threat and so on. A trafficker may deceive a person into being trafficked by telling her that a well-paid job and good working conditions—or for a young person, a modelling contract or a singing career—await her in another place, when in fact she may be exploited for sex or labour. Here in Africa, most people go very fetish, forces their victims to swear not to disobey their instructions and warn them that going contrary to their instructions will result in death or something worse. Elsewhere, a trafficker will often use violence or the threat of violence as a control tactic. The victim may be made to fear that they or their loved ones will be sexually assaulted, beaten, or killed, or may be forced to witness the beatings or sexual assaults of others to make sure they comply with the trafficker's demands. In this situation, we can help victims by being good observers of our environment. Noticing and reporting very strange neighbours to the local authorities is very good step to helping people in this situation. It is also important to note that sometimes that such criminals may want to come after people who expose them. It is very important to be careful and remain anonymous when offering help to people who need assistance in this category. Try to find out why that house-help who lives with your neighbour does not go to school and take action!
This is what the perpetuators stand to benefit from the exercise. Things to benefit include money, cheap labour, sexual exploitation, forced labour and so on. To ascertain whether a particular circumstance constitutes trafficking in persons, consider the definition of trafficking in the Trafficking in Persons Protocol stated earlier which defines it as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.
My Personal Experience:
I will share this story to help us understand this topic properly: I had earlier told a story of how on my way travelling to Bamako, I met some girls who were also travelling to the same destination with me from Lagos. For this sake of this article, I will refer to sections of the blog that is related to our discussions.
Two seats ahead of the seat I was seated sat in the vehicle, sat three girls. They were something in their late teens. One of them started paying attention to myself and my friend whom I was traveling together with when she heard us speaking Igbo. I noticed my friend was more interested in talking with her than myself hence at some point, I excused the conversation to listen to some music. While I played music and reflected on the several things. I wondered what it was that would warrant these ladies to embark on this trip. It was at that point I decided to re-join the conversation and ask them what it was that they were travelling to do in Bamako. She responded they will know when they got there but that the person who is taking them on the trip told them he will help them find jobs in Bamako. It was at that point I sensed something is probably wrong with the arrangement. First of all, the girls in question after I spoke with them, I noted they neither spoke French nor Bambara which is the local language in Bamako. I also noticed they do not have any handiwork before embarking on the trip – now it would be permissible if they were skilled in something and they were going to practice such skill in Mali. Finally, they were not certain of what they will be doing in Bamako – these were three grown up girls.
Prior to this trip, a friend told me of how girls from Nigeria come to Bamako for prostitution. So, I felt a sort of déjà vu when all these were happening. In the midst of all these, I imagined if this was happening to my younger sister. I wondered why they would agree to go to a trip they understood little or nothing about. I also asked how her how she got to meet the guy taking them on the trip, she told me initially he was her elder brother, she however opened up to tell me it was one of her aunties who introduced her to him. I also asked the girl what if the gentleman was taking them there to gets them involved in a ‘dirty’ business. She smiled and asked ‘...a dirty business like?’ I only responded by wishing her the best in all her endeavours. I also gave her the phone number of my MaliTel line I bought at the Mali-Burkina-Faso border and also my local Nigerian number and advised her to call me if anything goes wrong or if she needs help with anything. Well, it’s almost two and half years now and I am yet to receive any call.
The story above is a classic example of Human Trafficking. Yea even though several things are unknown about their mission but that does not make the trafficker innocent. Also, there was something about the identities of the girls and their ethnicity that convinced me that he is guilty as accused. The girl I spoke with is Igbo, one other is Yoruba and the last was Esam from Benin City. How can just one person be relatives to all these three different ethnicities and be so kind hearted to take them abroad to make money at once?
First, we see ‘her aunty’ recruiting her to go for this trip. In the process of our conversation, she mentioned that they stayed with someone in Lagos for some days before the gentleman arrived to Lagos to pick them up. We notice the harbouring aspect of the Human Trafficking ACT here. They were harboured and were also transferred to someone who now transported them to Bamako.
Now, it is very obvious the girls were deceived by the perpetuators. One can easily assert this because the Lagos they were leaving for has more job opportunities than Bamako they were headed for. I also noticed she initially did not want to tell me the truth about the identity of the trafficker. She eventually opened up when she saw I could be trusted. This tells me he might have threatened them not to disclose any information to anyone or the authorities. If her claims that her aunty was the one who introduced her to the trafficker, we see abuse of power by a parent or a guardian in this case. We see the some of the MEANS of Human Trafficking here. We would of course expect the guy to make some profit after spending his money to bring them to Bamako. He might as well take carnal knowledge of them as well since they have no one to call or report to – finally, we have seen his PURPOSE.
Human Trafficking is a nightmare that all of us will have to join our hands to ensure it dies and never rise again. We must as individuals, families, governments, schools etc. do whatever we can to ensure we create the awareness that this happens around us daily and that we must do all we can to avoid falling victims ourselves or our loved ones. Let’s also be careful to help people in need. Someone you help today may help you reach the dreams you have for tomorrow.