Rescued from the claws of traffickers… Naledi tells her story
Mukundi Mutasa, SADC Secretariat
When Naledi Gaborone was approached by her fellow church member in October 2008 with a proposal for a job opportunity in Canada, little did she know that the member was a wolf in sheep skin.
The church member had promised that she would facilitate Naledi’s travel to the North American country where many opportunities awaited her. Specifically, she was being recruited to work as a family caregiver.
This is an opportunity of a lifetime, she thought at the time. She informed the church member that she was interested; after all, a fellow parishioner would not deceive her.
There was, however, a catch. Naledi was told that there were certain facilitation fees required, and she would need to surrender the deeds of her only property and her three children’s identity documents, which of course she did.
When the day of travel came, a woman who was travelling with her advised her to inform the Canadian immigration officers that their reason for travelling was to apply for asylum.
Upon arrival, Naledi decided to go against the advice, and she vehemently refuted claims that they were seeking asylum in Canada.
The Canadian authorities were quick enough to notice the red flags raised by this denial, and they put her in a safe house while they conducted their investigations.
In the safe house, she met a number of Botswana nationals also believed to be victims of trafficking. Media reports have also reported on stranded Batswana identified in the First World.
“Batswana citizens [are] reportedly stranded in Canada and England after being recruited for good jobs and scholarship there,” according to a Sunday Standard report in 2014.
When the investigations were finalised, Naledi was repatriated back to her home country as one of the lucky people to escape potential entrapment. Had it not been because of her gut feeling and quick action that led her to denying claims that she was getting into Canada for asylum, the ending would have been different for her.
Back in Botswana, having lost her property and her source of income and fighting for justice, Naledi has been telling her story so that others can be saved from looming enslavement. During the World Day against Trafficking in Persons commemoration held in Palapye on 30 July 2015, she told the gathering to be on the lookout for people who deceive and take advantage of others in a vulnerable position, a trap that she experienced.
By sharing the story of her misfortune, she has succeeded in bringing the issues closer to the people, and giving a human face to the heinous crime of trafficking in persons. Naledi’s tale is a demonstration that public awareness raising at the community level remains an area that requires strengthening, not only in Botswana, but the entire SADC region.
A SADC research report on trafficking in persons published in 2016 reported that trafficking in persons is a big problem that poses public security challenges in the SADC region, and other people are not as lucky as Naledi to be rescued before they experience horrendous forms of exploitation such as sexual exploitation, forced labour and labour exploitation.
It is suspected that people are trafficked from the southern African region to other countries around the world for purposes of exploitation.
The majority of SADC Member States are source and/or transit countries for victims of trafficking, while South Africa is the main destination country in the region.
In response to the growing crime of trafficking in persons, the SADC Secretariat is implementing a programme on countering trafficking in persons in the SADC region, in line with the 10 Year SADC Strategic Plan of Action on Combating Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (2009-2019).
The Regional Political Cooperation programme, which will run until September 2018, is financially supported by the European Union through a Contribution Agreement signed in December 2012.
Through the programme, and other initiatives from like-minded institutions in the region, it is hoped that many people will be rescued from possible entrapment like Naledi was, and that trafficking in persons will be successfully prevented and combated.
NB: Naledi Gaborone is ‘not her real name’