The Government of Eswatini does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore Eswatini remained on Tier 2. These efforts included convicting a trafficker and sentencing him to 15 years’ imprisonment for forced labor. The government trained front-line responders on victim identification and referral, and senior magistrates conducted trainings on the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act (SODVA), which included trafficking in persons. The government continued to identify trafficking victims, referred all victims to care, and collaborated with a foreign government and other partners to establish a new shelter. It also allocated funding for the third consecutive year to a victim assistance fund for protective services. The government launched a new, five-year national action plan and conducted awareness raising activities throughout the country. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government did not have shelter policies or guidelines to ensure quality of care for trafficking victims, and the primary shelter available was inadequate. While the government did take action against a government protection officer who assaulted and traumatized three foreign victims while they were in a government shelter, overall lack of protection efforts and oversight created the environment in which the assault took place.
Increase efforts to identify, investigate, and prosecute more trafficking crimes, including internal trafficking cases. • Implement the national anti-trafficking action plan. • Address leadership issues at the anti-trafficking secretariat and enable the task force to fulfill its statutory responsibilities. • Ensure all victims of trafficking are provided appropriate and comprehensive care, including by developing shelter policies or guidelines to ensure quality of care. • Identify key NGO partnerships for provision of protective services and strengthen coordination with such NGOs. • Convict traffickers and sentence them to significant prison terms. • Continue training law enforcement officials, social workers, and others to identify trafficking victims proactively among vulnerable populations. • Improve trafficking data collection and analysis, utilizing the Southern African Development Community (SADC) data collection system for collecting trafficking case data at the national and regional level. • Conduct anti-trafficking public awareness campaigns.
The government maintained anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The 2009 People Trafficking and People Smuggling (Prohibition) Act criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to 20 years’ imprisonment for offenses involving an adult victim, and up to 25 years’ imprisonment for those involving a child victim. These penalties were sufficiently stringent, and with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The SODVA prescribed penalties of up to 20 years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to 100,000 emalangeni ($7,110), or both, for the commercial sexual exploitation of an adult and, up to 25 years’ imprisonment with no option of a fine if the offense involved a child. Poor performance by leadership personnel at the anti-trafficking secretariat remained an obstacle to progress on trafficking during the reporting period. In response, the cabinet instituted temporary policies to address or remove obstacles that previously had hindered trafficking prosecutions and internal and external communication in relation to trafficking issues. There is a risk that leadership challenges might recur if enduring solutions are not identified and implemented. The government investigated five suspected trafficking cases and initiated prosecutions of five alleged traffickers, compared with six investigations and three prosecutions during the previous year. The government convicted one labor trafficker under the anti-trafficking law, the same number as last year, and sentenced him to 15 years’ imprisonment. While there were general reports of government corruption, including immigration officials seeking bribes to issue government documents such as visas, there were few reports of direct official complicity in trafficking. The government investigated a senior official for sex trafficking. The investigation culminated in a high-profile arrest and prosecution. There were no further reports of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses.
The government trained a wide range of front-line responders during the reporting period, including the Royal Eswatini Police Service (REPS), prosecutors, immigration officers, and social workers. The REPS trained new police recruits on proactive victim identification and referral guidelines, and senior magistrates conducted multiple trainings on the SODVA, which included trafficking in persons. The government continued to provide anti-trafficking training at the police college for all in-service and pre-service officers and trained an unknown number of new police recruits during the reporting period. The government cooperated with authorities in Taiwan to investigate allegations of human trafficking of Swati students who were studying in Taiwan.
The government maintained victim protection efforts. The government identified six trafficking victims and referred all victims to care, compared with identifying and referring to care five victims during the previous reporting period. Of those victims identified, three were male adult labor trafficking victims from Bangladesh and three were female victims of unknown exploitation type. The government coordinated with Taiwan to repatriate Swati students who were potential trafficking victims. After providing food, clothing, toiletries, psycho-social support, and medical care for all victims at government facilities, the government reunified the Swati victims with their families. Foreign victims were either repatriated or remained in the country, in accordance with their preferences. The government owned one facility that provided short-term care for trafficking victims; however, it was reportedly inadequate for the extended period of time some victims spent there. Furthermore, the NGO the government previously partnered with to provide long-term, comprehensive care no longer accepted trafficking victims. The Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister’s offices, the anti-trafficking secretariat, and the Catholic Church collaborated during the reporting period with a foreign government to explore the establishment of a trafficking shelter in order to improve the quality of care available to victims. In February 2020, the government agreed to a multilateral approach whereby the Catholic Church donated a shelter building, a foreign government partner developed shelter guidelines and created training programs for shelter staff, and the government committed to staff the shelter and cover its daily operating expenses.
During the reporting period, the government’s primary protection officer allegedly threatened and assaulted three foreign national trafficking victims while they were residing in the temporary shelter facility provided by the government. The government filed nine criminal counts against the officer under both the anti-trafficking law and the penal code and accommodated the survivors’ requests to be released. The government also provided the victims the legal right to remain in Eswatini and permitted them to work, despite the fact they were in possession of work permits procured through fraudulent means by their trafficker. The government prohibited the officer from further contact with the trafficking victims, pending the outcome of the criminal trial, which began in February 2020 and was ongoing at the close of the reporting period. The government allocated 80,000 emalangeni ($5,690) for the third consecutive year to a victim assistance fund for protective services. In coordination with an international organization, the government launched a program to review and improve its victim identification, referral, and protection procedures and services. The government trained front-line responders on the victim identification guidelines and national referral mechanism. The government encouraged victims to assist in investigations by providing witness protection services, as well as transportation and accommodation as needed.
The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. In collaboration with an international organization, the government approved a new, five-year national action plan and launched it in August 2019. The secretariat conducted public awareness activities at the Eswatini international trade fair, targeting traditional leaders, students, young women, and parents with information on preventing child trafficking and how to report suspected cases. The secretariat conducted sessions on human trafficking at schools with the assistance of teachers and police officers. The secretariat continued its border campaign, placing posters at various land borders and the airport to raise awareness on trafficking. Department of Immigration officials presented messages on television and radio to raise awareness of trafficking. The Ministry of Tinkhundla, which oversees chiefdoms and traditional systems of governance, developed an anti-trafficking awareness program to be shared throughout Eswatini’s four regions and later in the chiefdoms. The government continued to participate in the SADC regional data collection tool by uploading trafficking cases, victim and trafficker profiles, and sharing information with neighboring countries. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.
As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Eswatini, and traffickers exploit victims from Eswatini abroad. Swati trafficking victims come primarily from poor communities with high HIV/AIDS prevalence rates. Traffickers exploit Swati girls, particularly orphans, in sex trafficking and domestic servitude, primarily in Eswatini and South Africa. Traffickers force Swati boys and foreign children to labor in agriculture, including cattle herding, and market vending within the country. Mozambican boys migrate to Eswatini for work washing cars, herding livestock, and portering; traffickers exploit some in forced labor. Traffickers use Eswatini as a transit country to transport foreign victims to South Africa for forced labor. Traffickers reportedly force Mozambican women into commercial sex in Eswatini, or transport them through Eswatini to South Africa. Some traffickers force Swatis into commercial sex in South Africa after voluntarily migrating in search of work. Reports suggest labor brokers fraudulently recruit and charge excessive fees to Swati nationals for work in South African mines, means often used to facilitate trafficking crimes. Swati men in border communities are recruited for forced labor in South Africa’s timber industry.