• September 27, 2020

‘False’ Human Trafficking Report is Used to Justify anti-immigration policy in South Africa

epaselect epa08339209 A mother and child, part of a group of African foreign nationals from various African countries, are moved by South African police out of the Central Methodist Church where they had barricaded themselves in taking refuge since October 2019, in Cape Town, South Africa, 02 April 2020. Police had to break the barricaded door of the church to get hundreds of foreign nationals out who took refuge there fearing xenophobic attacks. The refugees were moved by bus to a secure location for the lockdown over COVID-19. The South African government is enforcing a 21-day total lockdown to try stem the spread of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 which causes the COVID-19 disease. EPA-EFE/NIC BOTHMA

A report by the University of Pretoria’s Centre for Child Law in collaboration with the University of the Witwatersrand’s African Centre for Migration & Society (ACMS) claimed trafficking of people is used as a political tool to obscure or justify anti-immigration policy and practice

The report disclosed that unsubstantiated claims about child trafficking are being used to restrict migration and increase the securitisation of borders, which can impinge on children’s rights, especially undocumented migrant children.

The report “Child trafficking in South Africa: Exploring the Myths and Realities” was released on Friday 21 August.

The report and policy brief form part of the Centre for Child Law’s efforts to show the realities and complexities shaping the lives of vulnerable children in South Africa and to recommend ways of reducing the vulnerabilities they face.

The study finds that in the absence of reliable information and data on child trafficking, policy and practice is largely assumption-led, rather than evidence-based.

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It was further revealed that exaggerated and sensationalised claims about child trafficking are shaped and driven by the media, while some anti-trafficking organisations and scholars unquestioningly reproduce, circulate and lend credence to unsubstantiated reports and research.

The report postulated that the vulnerabilities most children face are the physical dangers of crossing borders and the threat of violence.

Additionally, it was discovered that exploitation including sexual exploitation (which does not always amount to trafficking), and the continued challenges of life without documentation are part of the problems associated with child trafficking.

The report further enlightened on the fact that child trafficking does not fit with the key myths such as children being primarily trafficked into the sex trade and that trafficking is the primary concern for children on the move.

“At best, myths about trafficking increasingly drive political decisions on migration policy, leading to policy and regulation that misdirects scarce resources from interventions that can make a difference to a child’s life”, according to the report.

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Denial of migration as integral to trafficking discussions

Also, the title of the report was critiqued as being misleading, with the suggestion that the wording should have referred to child migration rather than child trafficking.

But the study’s findings show that it is short-sighted to argue that migration and related challenges are not a part of the discourse of child trafficking.

Furthermore, obscuring the content of the study, by focusing primarily on its title is a calculated strategy to ensure that the conversation does not engage with substantive matters raised in the content of the report.

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Femi Oshin

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