Truckers UNiTE against human trafficking

Truck drivers can assist to identify and help trafficking victims who have been forced into prostitution on Africa’s highways

Truck drivers can assist to identify and help trafficking victims who have been forced into prostitution on Africa’s highways

The Transport Sector Retirement Fund (TSRF) and Salt Employee Benefits (Salt EB) recently joined forces to implement a national Human Trafficking Awareness Initiative to help combat this fast-growing crime.

The campaign “Truckers UNiTE Against Human Trafficking” is aimed at creating awareness among truckers, members of the transport sector, and South Africans in general, according to Nadine Blom, brand and communications lead at Salt EB.

“The Truckers Against Trafficking initiative originated in the US and has grown into a far reaching awareness campaign impacting greatly on the American trucking industry.

“The TSRF and Salt EB decided to collaborate with Truckers Against Trafficking in the US in order to learn from their best practices and to make a material difference in the global fight against trafficking in persons.

“The members of TSRF, many of whom are on the road, can play a crucial role in fighting this horrific crime. The slogan of the campaign is ‘Our eyes on the highways’,” says Blom.

The first phase of the project entailed launching an awareness video clip to TSRF members via their mobile phones. The second phase involves the distribution of Human Trafficking Awareness Flyers to members electronically, as well as at truck stops.

Awareness posters will also be distributed at truck stops. The third phase of the project aims to obtain buy-in from employers with regards to human trafficking awareness training for employees, in order to empower members to successfully identify and assist trafficking victims who are forced to work as prostitutes on the highways.

Blom says modern-day slavery or human trafficking is a criminalised form of international organised crime and refers to people being bought and sold for exploitative purposes.

“Trafficking in persons is a very profitable crime with an annual market of $32-billion, mainly due to the fact that it is a high-profit crime involving relatively low risk implications.

“Transnational organised crime structures use advanced forms of technology to recruit victims and facilitate trafficking globally.

“Supply factors that include political conflict, natural disasters, the demand for sex and child sex, poverty and vulnerability, lack of awareness and education, food insecurity, lack of employment opportunities, cultural perceptions, and the displacement of people have all contributed to the vast escalation of this problem. 

“Whereas drugs can be sold only once, humans can be ‘recycled’  for various purposes and human lives have become nothing more than disposable commodities.

“Treated as merchandise, humans are sold and resold all over the world for various purposes such as prostitution, pornography, carrying drugs, organ harvesting, child brides, domestic servitude, labour in mines, sweatshop labour, internet brides, for the purpose of funding terrorism, for forced labour purposes, child labour and child combatants.

“Victims include South African nationals as well as foreign individuals and are often recruited by crime syndicates with promises of a better life, opportunities and employment.”

According to the Global Slavery Index (2017), 45-million people are currently enslaved across the globe. Human trafficking is becoming a growing concern in South Africa as illustrated by the recent escalation in child abductions.

Blom says traffickers recruit vulnerable children, teens, women and individuals via various platforms, which includes schools, social media such as Facebook and Instagram, shopping malls, highways and by means of jobs offers in greater city areas.

“A large percentage of trafficked individuals are women and children, many of whom are exploited in the sex industry. Victims include prostituted individuals on the street, in private homes, in legitimate businesses such as restaurants, and truck stops and motels.

“These victims need to be identified and recovered,” says Blom.

Truckers UNiTE Against Trafficking recognises that members of the trucking industry and individual truckers are invaluable in the fight against this heinous crime.

Blom explains that victim identification and the under-identification of victims are major challenges in South Africa.

She says the secretive nature of trafficking makes victim identification a challenge. Victims are often trapped by fear and due to the torture they were exposed to by their traffickers, victims tend to keep quiet about their traumatic experiences.

“Effective prosecution of perpetrators and effective victim identification form an essential part of addressing the problem of human trafficking.

“As the eyes and ears of our nation’s highways, TSRF members are in a unique position to make a difference and close loopholes to traffickers who seek to exploit the transportation system for their personal gain,” says Blom.

Over the next few months the TSRF will conduct an awareness campaign among members with human trafficking awareness video clips, flyers and posters at the various truck stops.

Employers will also be provided with the details of potential training programmes on this issue. If employers would like to become more involved, please send an email to blomn@salteb.co.za.

If anyone suspects a crime of the above nature, they can report this anonymously at the following contact number: 0800 222 777 (South African Human Trafficking National Resource Line).