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Human trafficking in NamibiaAccording to the 2018 Global Slavery Index, more than 40 million people worldwide were trafficked into modern slavery as of 2016. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, this number was 7.8 million, making up 19% of the world’s trafficked population. In 2020, Namibia became the first African country to reach the rank of Tier 1 in the 2020 Trafficking in Persons report for its progress in eliminating human trafficking.

Measuring Human Trafficking

The most widely accepted and comprehensive measurement of human trafficking is the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report released by the United States Department of State. The report measures countries on how well they prosecute human trafficking offenders, protect human trafficking victims and prevent human trafficking from occurring in the first place. This system divides countries into three tiers and ranks them based upon what minimum standards of compliance they meet.

Firstly, Tier 3 countries do not meet minimum standards and do not attempt to comply. Tier 2 countries do not meet all of the minimum standards but actively work toward them. Ultimately, Tier 1 countries comply with the minimum standards to eliminate human trafficking. Still, that does not mean human trafficking completely ceases to exist in these countries. These tiers are diplomatic tools as well as a guide for the allocation of resources. For example, a Tier 2 county needs more international assistance than a Tier 1 country, while a Tier 3 country may face negative consequences such as trade restrictions.

Namibia’s Path to Tier 1

The United States Department of State identified Namibia as a “Special Case” in the 2008 TIP report. This designation means observers suspect the country of having a significant amount of human trafficking but there is not enough reliable data to determine its tier ranking. The specific concern with Namibia was that the country was engaged as both a source and destination for child sex and labor trafficking.

In 2009 Namibia moved up to Tier 2 sitting on the Watch List from 2012 to 2015. Namibia was removed from the Watch List but stayed at Tier 2 from 2016 to 2019. Since then, Namibia has taken significant steps toward eliminating human trafficking.

During the TIP reporting period for 2020 rankings, Namibia made sufficient improvements to move from Tier 2 to Tier 1. These improvements include:

  • Enforcing the Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2018
  • Prosecuting more human traffickers with stricter penalties
  • Identifying and caring for more victims
  • Launching an awareness campaign
  • Increasing prevention efforts and training

In 2020 alone, Namibia arrested 31 individuals for sex and labor trafficking and has 29 open investigations, compared to the investigation of nine cases in 2018. The government was also able to identify 30 victims of human trafficking, including 20 children. NGO shelters cared for all the victims.

Looking to the Future

Even countries with Tier 1 ratings have work to do to continue making steps toward the complete elimination of human trafficking and prevent backsliding. While Namibia has made dramatic improvements, the United States Department of State noted that training for frontline responders was not always adequate. Furthermore, there was some miscommunication between different government and civil sectors. To continue on its current path of progress, the Department of State recommends that Namibia improves training and coordination. The Department also recommends that Namibia’s government should continue to prosecute offenders and provide for victims. By continuously improving its services, Namibia can get closer to eliminating human trafficking and provide safer living conditions for its citizens.

– Starr Sumner
Photo: Flickr

Human trafficking in North Korea
North Korea’s government has done nothing to aid victims of human trafficking. Forced labor is a pillar of North Korea’s established economic system. Adults and schoolchildren must work in various sectors, such as logging, mining, factories, agriculture, infrastructure work, information technology and construction. Adults who do not participate in these forms of labor suffer from withheld food rations and imposed taxes. Here are five facts about human trafficking in North Korea.

5 Facts About Human Trafficking in North Korea

  1. Child Exploitation: The North Korean government is paying schools for child labor while the children are under their care. Teachers and school principals exploit students for personal gain. The effects of child exploitation can cause physical and psychological injuries, malnutrition, exhaustion and growth deficiencies.
  2. Challenges of Leaving: The law criminalizes leaving North Korea without permission and criminalizes moving to a third-party country. Those seeking asylum are subject to indefinite imprisonment, forced labor and death.
  3. Labor Camps: The North Korean government runs regional, local and sub-district level labor camps. Those imprisoned work hard labor while receiving little resources and experiencing physical abuse. North Koreans who are not registered as employed for longer than 15 days are at risk of being sent to labor camps for at least six months.
  4. Poverty, Famine and Health Care: Repression of North Korea’s people forces North Koreans to remain in poverty. Food famine prevents a vast majority of North Korean’s from feeding themselves and their families. Another example of how North Korea represses its people is through the health care that it provides. While North Korea’s government has claimed to provide universal health care, the majority of the health care system collapsed in the 1990s. Health care is only available to those who can afford it.
  5. Migration to China: Without their basic needs met, hundreds of thousands of North Korean’s flee to China’s borders. Those fleeing from North Korea are desperate and are more vulnerable to human trafficking. In fact, traffickers capture 60% of women fleeing from North Korea to China and force them into sex work and forced marriages. While the U.N. Protocol on Trafficking calls on governments to protect the victims of human trafficking, China sees these victims as migrants and returns them to North Korea where they face extreme punishment.

The United States’ Recommendations

The United States ranked North Korea as a Tier-3 country in the 2020 Trafficking in Persons report for the 18th year in a row, due to not eliminating human trafficking and not making significant efforts to do so. It prioritized recommendations calling for the end of state-sponsored forced labor, including North Korean workers abroad and the prison camps that the North Korean government uses as a source of revenue and a tool of repression. The United States recommends criminalization of sex trafficking and labor trafficking, investigating and prosecution of trafficking cases and conviction of traffickers, allowing international human rights monitors to evaluate the living and working conditions of workers in North Korea and to allow North Koreans to choose and leave their employment at will.

Countries that rank as Tier-3 according to the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report will experience more than just shame. In fact, they will face financial penalties along with the United States’ opposition to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank granting North Korea with assistance.

The consequences of a bad ranking on the TIP report has forced countries to adopt anti-trafficking measures before. However, time will tell whether North Korea will do the same.

– Mckenzie Staley
Photo: Flickr