Namibia is predominantly a country of origin and destination for children and, to a lesser extent, women subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Some victims are initially offered legitimate work for adequate wages, but eventually experience forced labor in urban centers and on commercial farms. Traffickers exploit Namibian children within the country in forced labor in agriculture, cattle herding, and domestic service, as well as prostitution in Windhoek and Walvis Bay. Foreign nationals from southern Africa and Europe are among the clientele of children in prostitution. Namibians commonly house and care for children of distant relatives in order to provide expanded educational opportunities; however, in some instances, these children are exploited by their relatives in forced labor. Among Namibia’s ethnic groups, San girls are particularly vulnerable to forced labor on farms or in homes, and to a lesser extent, are exploited in prostitution. Children from Angola, Zambia, and Zimbabwe are subjected to prostitution, forced labor in the fishing sector, or forced labor in organized street vending in Windhoek and other cities. In particular, Angolan children may be brought to Namibia for forced labor in cattle herding or forced to sell drugs. During the year, there were reports of Angolan women in forced prostitution in Namibia and a Namibian national was identified as a trafficking victim in South Africa. There were reports of exploitative labor—perhaps including forced labor—involving foreign adults and Namibian adults and children in Chinese-owned retail, construction, and fishing operations.
The Government of Namibia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government has not shown evidence of increasing efforts to address human trafficking compared to the previous year; therefore, Namibia is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a third consecutive year. Namibia was granted a waiver from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3 because its government has a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and it has committed to devoting sufficient resources to implement that plan. In 2013, the government investigated four suspected trafficking cases, continued prosecution of two suspected sex trafficking offenders initiated in the previous reporting period, and developed an initial draft of anti-trafficking legislation. Officials discovered 14 potential victims, provided shelter for two, and provided financial assistance to an NGO that assisted two others. The government, however, failed to initiate any new prosecutions during the year and has never convicted a trafficking offender. Some Namibian officials continued to demonstrate a reluctance to acknowledge trafficking and incorrectly insist that transnational movement is a defining element of trafficking crimes. The government failed to fully institute formal victim identification and referral processes, leading to the possible penalization and deportation of potential victims in 2013. In addition, despite its efforts to renovate buildings and designate places of safety in each province for victims of gender-based violence, including trafficking, the government left such facilities understaffed and under capacitated to fulfill their intended mission. Lack of effective inter-ministerial coordination in the development and implementation of anti-trafficking programming remained a key concern.
Recommendations for Namibia:
Draft and enact comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation; increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and to convict and punish trafficking offenders under existing law, including the Prevention of Organized Crime Act (POCA); develop and implement systematic procedures for the proactive identification of victims and their subsequent referral to care; train law enforcement, judicial sector, immigration, labor, and social welfare officials on relevant legislation and identification and referral procedures; allocate resources and develop a plan to fully operationalize renovated safe houses; proactively investigate and criminally prosecute employers accused of forced labor violations in Chinese retail, construction, and fishing operations; train judicial officials to promote consistent use of a broad definition of human trafficking that does not rely on evidence of movement, but rather focuses on exploitation, consistent with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol; strengthen coordination of anti-trafficking efforts among government ministries, at both the Minister and the working level; and institute a unified system for collecting trafficking case data for use by all stakeholders.
The Government of Namibia modestly increased anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the year. The 2009 POCA criminalizes all forms of trafficking. Under the POCA, persons who participate in trafficking offenses or aid and abet trafficking offenders may be imprisoned for up to 50 years and fined, penalties that are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with punishments prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare (MGECW), the government’s anti-trafficking lead, continued to coordinate the efforts of an inter-ministerial committee responsible for drafting anti-trafficking legislation, including specific protections for trafficking victims, prevention measures, and harsher punishments for child trafficking offenses; the committee completed its initial draft of the bill in 2013, which now awaits review by the Attorney General. The pending Child Care and Protection Bill, drafted in 2009 and approved by the cabinet in March 2012, includes a provision explicitly criminalizing child trafficking; the bill remained pending parliamentary debate and passage at the end of the reporting period.
During the previous reporting period, in October 2012, the Swakopmund Magistrate’s Court commenced the government’s first known sex trafficking prosecution, charging two suspects for their alleged role in procuring three females (aged 13, 14, and 18) for sexual exploitation by a South African miner for the equivalent of approximately $1,175. The suspects remained in prison as the state built the case during the reporting period with the trial expected to begin in 2014. The government investigated four potential trafficking cases in 2013—compared to one in 2012—including one case of child labor trafficking involving two San girls brought from Omega district to Windhoek for the purposes of domestic servitude. Law enforcement efforts incorrectly focused on transnational movement as a necessary condition of trafficking. The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare (MLSW) reported its efforts to acquire payment from and deport Chinese employers responsible for the forced labor of an unknown number of Chinese and Namibian nationals in construction firms during the year. Although the president publicly criticized Chinese businesses for mistreating Namibians and violating Namibian labor law, the government failed to prosecute suspected offenders during the year. In partnership with UNICEF, in 2012, MGECW developed a police curriculum on gender-based violence, including trafficking; however, the government has not yet finalized the curriculum or conducted training exercises with it in 2013. The government failed to investigate official complicity in trafficking crimes, including in a case of a teacher allegedly recruiting children for domestic servitude.
The government made modest efforts to protect trafficking victims during the year, but continued to lack a process for screening vulnerable populations to identify victims or provide official designation of trafficking victim status. Officials discovered at least 14 potential trafficking victims during the year and provided shelter to two of them; a government-supported NGO provided assistance to two additional victims. In one February 2014 case, Ministry of Labor officials discovered two San girls in domestic servitude in Windhoek; officials removed the two girls and sheltered them for five days at an MGECW place of safety while officials arranged transport back to their families.
Ordinarily, upon discovery of a woman or child victim of crime, including trafficking, police transfer the victim to the Women and Child Protection Unit (WACPU), which has responsibility for referring victims of all crimes to temporary shelter and medical assistance provided by NGOs or other entities. MGECW, in partnership with UNICEF, formalized these referral procedures through the development of a national protection referral network for crime victims and distributed referral flow charts to service providers in early 2013; however, this process has not been fully operationalized and it was not used to refer trafficking victims during the year. WACPU’s facilities offered initial psycho-social, legal, and medical support to victims of crime, in cooperation with the Namibian Police, MGECW, the Ministry of Health, and NGOs. For example, the MGECW provided social workers to assist WACPU police in counseling victims of violent crimes, including human trafficking; however, it remained unclear whether trafficking victims received such services during the year.
The government completed renovation of a seventh building to be used for long-term accommodations for women and child victims of gender-based violence and human trafficking. Although six of the seven renovated facilities are under the management of MGECW and reported to be operational, they were not fully staffed or capacitated to provide victim services during the year. The MGECW provided a social worker and partial coverage of operational costs to the one NGO-managed facility, which provided care in 2013 to two San women lured to Windhoek with promises of paid employment, only to endure forced labor in domestic work. These facilities offered overnight accommodation, medical examinations, and space for social workers to provide counseling and psycho-social support.
The government did not have a policy in place to encourage victims’ participation in investigations. The law provides that special accommodations may be made for vulnerable witnesses, potentially including trafficking victims; however, there was no evidence that these measures have been employed in trafficking cases. There were no reports that victims were detained, fined, or jailed for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. However, the government neither made systematic efforts to identify trafficking victims nor employed any mechanism for screening among illegal migrants or individuals in prostitution, which may have left victims unidentified in the law enforcement system. Although no foreign victims were identified in Namibia in 2013, the government remained without the ability to provide temporary or permanent residency to foreign victims. The government frequently deported foreign laborers, including children, without consideration of their potential trafficking victimization; it deported workers removed from exploitative labor in Chinese firms and foreign children in street vending who had been rounded up by Namibian police.
The government made minimal efforts to prevent human trafficking during the reporting period. Under the leadership of MGECW, the National Advisory Committee on Gender-Based Violence—which included trafficking within its mandate—served to provide cabinet-level policy guidance on gender-based violence issues. The MGECW also coordinated an inter-ministerial committee and technical working group both specifically tasked to address trafficking efforts in collaboration with other ministries at the working level; however, it is unclear whether these entities were able to coordinate efforts or delegate responsibilities to relevant stakeholder ministries in developing and implementing trafficking programming. The MGECW commissioned a national trafficking in persons survey of nationwide stakeholders during the reporting period; the survey was not released by the end of the reporting period, but the results will purportedly inform further awareness raising and prevention efforts. The government appeared to make only limited progress toward implementing the “National Plan of Action on Gender-Based Violence 2012-2016,” including the anti-trafficking strategy portions of the plan. However, a midterm review of the plan was in process at the end of the reporting period. All 73 labor inspectors received training on child labor during the year, but inspectors did not formally identify any child labor violations during the 1,981 inspections in the formal sector in 2013. The government did not make efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor.