Human trafficking on rise

Seven girls rescued from suspected Bloemfontein brothel in latest incident

APOLICE raid on a suspected Bloemfontein brothel has led to the rescue of seven South African women students and the arrest of two Ugandan men. And police believe this is just one of several multimillion-rand criminal organisations targeting the country.

Tuesday’s rescue follows the discovery of seven other girls allegedly being held by Nigerians as sex slaves outside Brits in the North West province last week.

The girls, who were found drugged, were being held in a house in Sonop.

The 14 are among 19 trafficked people to have been rescued by the Hawks since January, when five Malawians were found on a North West farm where they were being kept as alleged slave labourers.

In November, 16 Bangladeshi men were found in Pretoria West days after they had been brought into South Africa, apparently across the Zimbabwe border.

The LexisNexis human trafficking awareness index shows that between January and December last year, 93 people were trafficked into or within South Africa, 17 of them children.

At least two trafficked into the country had their organs removed. Hawks spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Malaudzi said South Africa had a serious human trafficking problem.

“We have huge operations lined up targeting syndicates smuggling not one or two people into South Africa, but dozens.

“Those behind these syndicates are running multimillion-rand criminal organisations, with global reach.”

He said the seven students were rescued after Hawks officers raided a flat in Bloemfontein on Tuesday night.

“We discovered pornographic material which they had allegedly been forced to make. The students, who are all from North West province, were allegedly brought to Bloemfontein on the promise that their student fees would be paid for, but instead they were trapped.”

Mulaudzi said during the raid police arrested two Ugandan nationals and seized R5 000 worth of crack cocaine and crystal meth. They would appear in court today on human trafficking and drug charges.

The girls were being held in a place of safety. “We are trying to establish if they have been reported missing and exactly how they were caught in the syndicate.

“We strongly believe that other girls might also be held by . . . this syndicate.”

Nelly Hlombe of LexisNexis, which runs a human trafficking awareness index, said a quarter of all victims identified last year were victims of sexual exploitation.

“Cases identified include a father [who] attempted to sell his 18-day-old son for R2 000 to feed his drug addiction.”

Dr Monique Emser, a University of Free State researcher, labelled South Africa a key source, transit and destination country for human trafficking.

-Graeme Hosken

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