Africa witness

People’s voice

Trafficked migrants sleep on cold streets

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By Hassan Isilow

Thousands of African migrants, enticed to come to South Africa with promises of jobs and a better life are currently stranded and living on the streets of the Mother city, Africa witness can reliably reveal. On Saturday night, Africa Witness found three Tanzanian nationals sleeping on the streets of Bellville, near Cape Town. They said they had been lured by a Tanzania trafficker to come to South Africa after telling them they would find jobs and sponsors to further their education.

“We paid R17, 000 each to the man who brought us here, with promises of changing our lives. However, when we arrived here, he booked us into a cheap hotel and disappeared,” Asuman Mbagala related. The Tanzanians then waited in vain for their trafficker to return to the hotel the next morning. When they made enquiries at the hotel about his whereabouts, no one seemed to know and hours later they were asked to leave the hotel if they failed to pay the bills.

“‘We realized then that we had been conned. So we asked for directions to the police station, where we opened a case,” Mbagala said. At the police station they were advised to look for fellow Tanzanian nationals living in Cape Town who could help them with accommodation and food. A Good Samaritan came to their rescue and helped them with temporary accommodation in Parow; this too was a temporary measure for he had a large family living in a small house. According to Mbagala, they were left with no option but to move out and stay on the streets were they currently make a living as pimps and drug peddlers.

Huge problem

This story is far from an isolated case. Several Ugandan graduates have also been lured here with similar promises by their traffickers, only to be abandoned on streets upon their arrival in South Africa. Some of the victims left their jobs at home, hoping to get better opportunities here, only to discover they had been duped. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) describes the crime as an emerging trans-border scam. This includes female victims being trafficked from West Africa and Mozambique into South Africa with similar promises only to be forced into prostitution upon arrival.

According to Marija Nikolovska, head of the Irregular Migration Program at IOM in Pretoria, many people are convinced by human traffickers that there are jobs in South Africa or overseas. But upon arrival, they discover they were exploited. She said human tracking was a huge problem, but since it was conducted in secret, it was difficult to establish the exact number of people affected. In the last seven years IOM in the SADC region had assisted over 200 people who had been brought into the country and exploited.

According to a study conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) in 2010, four major trafficking streams into South Africa were identified as follows: The first stream involved cases of trafficking to South Africa from outside Africa. Then trafficking to South Africa from within Africa, followed by trafficking within the national borders of South Africa. The study noted that there were also traffickers who used South Africa as a transit point to other countries.


Trafficking out of South Africa was found to be much less voluminous than trafficking into the country. The HSRC report quoted that the IOM had recorded eight cases of trafficking from South Africa between January 2004 and January 2008. The destination country for the trafficked South Africans included Ireland, Zimbabwe, Israel, Switzerland and the Netherlands. There were also cases of women being trafficked to Macau.

The study confirmed that women constituted the largest group of victims in all streams of trafficking. Victims of inter-continental trafficking were usually between the ages of 19 and 50, who were trafficked predominantly for sexual exploitation. In the course of the investigation, many forms of exploitation were identified, including trafficking for prostitution, pornography, forced marriage, domestic servitude, forced labour, begging, and criminal activity, including drug trafficking.

Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth are believed to be primary destinations for underage sex tourism, involving children between 10 and 14 years of age. The report said this pattern indicated an international component, in which people seeking sex tourism travelled to developing countries, looking for anonymity and vulnerable children who are available for prostitution.

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Written by africawitness

June 14, 2012 at 6:37 pm

Posted in Xenophobia

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