The Human Trafficking Crisis in Africa

Yes, this is the 21st century. Even though a lot of things have revolutionised we are not any better than we were in the 19th century. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), as of 2016, there were 24.9 million victims of modern slavery. Around 71% of these  victims were women and girls and 1 in 4 was a child.

There exists different type of trafficking, each network is operated in a different way. With forced labour the individuals behind the large network target specific cities from which they know they will receive a high response rate. It may involve a person seeing an advert on a billboard or newspaper. This advert which is usually too good to be true may for example be a job opportunity in another country such as France or the USA with a high pay rate. The individual seeing the advertisement calls the number, and is told the procedure which is often an upfront cash payment. Having no money to pay the traffickers; the individual is told that the payment can be made once they have started earning money in the designated country.

Here begins the  process where the individual is transported to another country by the criminal network operating in different parts of the world. Once one arrives at the destination all their dreams are shattered, and their eyes are opened. They realise that they were being fed lies about a bright future ahead. If the victim is a female, she is usually deceived into participating in prostitution, and a male may be sold to work in agriculture or domestic work. The individuals are in a country with no official paperwork, and are threatened if they attempt to escape. Having nowhere to go, they have no choice but to stay and remain victims of a powerful international network of traffickers.

Africa leads the United States list of worst human trafficking offences. Sub Saharan Africa particularly Gambia is known to be a hub of human trafficking where at least according to the United Nations (UN), 26000 unaccompanied minors crossed the Mediterranean to Europe in 2017. The journey to Europe, starts with a backpack with minimal possessions. They leave behind their names, country if origin and their age. They are about to begin a journey to pursue a new life. Majority of them are escaping poverty. It is a catastrophic journey which involves crossing the Sahara Desert and passing war torn countries such as Libya. Not all reach their destination as many become victims of the tidal waves of the Mediterranean Sea or victims of slave trade.

A recent investigation by CNN revealed that people were being trafficked to Libya where they were being sold. Actual bidding was taking place with migrants being auctioned for as little as $400. A 22-year-old Migrant told of how he was captured by people claiming to be the police before he was sold to work on a tomato farm. These victims end up in Libya as they use the desert of Agadez in Niger as a crossing point. They then encounter these traffickers who promise to help them cross the Mediterranean Coast into Europe. Behind these individuals are the ones that organise these trips.

In early 2017, Al Jazeera carried out an investigation looking into the business of human trafficking in Gambia. They interviewed an individual known as L-Boy who talked through the process of how people are trafficked into Europe. It was his role to act as a mediator between the people and the agents based across the route such as Senegal, Mali, Niger (Agadez), Libya (Sabha). He refrained from calling this human trafficking but called it economic migration as he claimed none of these people were forced into migrating illegally. Yet these people themselves willingly pay him $ 2000 to get them to Italy so that they can get a better start in life.

What are the solutions to this problem? Many airline staff are now being trained to identify any possible signs of trafficking. But this alone cannot be enough. Do youth need to be educated about the risks and unimaginable horrors of migrating illegally? This may only be a temporary solution; as people like L-boy will continue to show the bright future card to them.  Therefore, more needs to be done in order to stop situations like the Libya Slave trade. Should Europe facilitate legal ways of migration? Would this be a good solution? Considering the fact that in 2017, there was 3000 deaths during the route of crossing the Mediterranean Sea. If a legal way is facilitated there may possibly be a decline in people falling victims to human trafficking.

Featured image | Cycle of Human Trafficking: Loan Shark | Jonny Goldstein : flickr

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.

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