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The Government of Botswana 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, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Botswana remained on Tier 2. These efforts included referring all identified victims to NGOs for care and providing some funding to the NGOs, funding and implementing the anti-trafficking national action plan, and providing additional services to victims who participated in trials against their traffickers. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government did not convict any traffickers and identified significantly fewer victims than the previous reporting period. Despite officials’ acknowledgement of forced and child labor among the San community on cattle farms, neither law enforcement nor labor inspectors made concerted efforts to investigate or address the issue. The government continued to lack formal procedures to identify and refer victims to care and devoted substantially less funding for victim care than in the previous reporting period.

Significantly increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers. • Amend the anti-trafficking law to remove sentencing provisions that allow fines in lieu of imprisonment. • Conduct comprehensive trainings for prosecutors and judges on Botswana’s 2014 anti-trafficking law so they can more effectively try and adjudicate cases. • Create procedures to identify trafficking victims and train stakeholders on them, including front-line law enforcement and immigration officials. • Routinely inspect cattle farms, including in Ghanzi, to ensure children are not engaged in forced labor. • Provide funding to the NGOs to which the government refers trafficking victims for shelter and services. • Formalize and implement procedures to refer trafficking victims to care. • Disallow suspended sentences for convicted traffickers. • Fund and implement the anti-trafficking national action plan. • Work with NGOs to increase freedom of movement and work opportunities for trafficking victims residing in shelters. • Screen for indicators of trafficking among vulnerable populations, including cattle farm workers, refugees, and Cuban medical workers. • Develop formal care procedures that incentivize victims to participate in trials against their traffickers. • Continue to conduct public awareness campaigns, particularly in rural areas.

The government maintained modest anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The 2014 Anti-Human Trafficking Act criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and defined trafficking broadly to include all child labor. The law prescribed penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment, a fine of 500,000 pula ($46,300), or both, which were sufficiently stringent; however, by allowing for a fine in lieu of imprisonment, with regard to sex trafficking, these penalties were not commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. Section 57 of the 2009 Children’s Act criminalized inducing, coercing, or encouraging a child to engage in prostitution, and prescribed penalties of two to five years’ imprisonment or a fine of 50,000 pula ($4,630), or both, penalties which were significantly lower than those prescribed under the 2014 anti-trafficking act. During the reporting period, the government and an international organization finalized drafting implementing regulations for the 2014 act to make it easier for judges and prosecutors to use and submitted them to the Anti-Human Trafficking Committee (AHTC) for approval.

The government initiated three trafficking investigations and continued 10 investigations initiated in prior years, compared to initiating one potential labor trafficking investigation in the previous reporting period. All three cases involved Zimbabwean traffickers who allegedly exploited Zimbabweans in labor and sex trafficking within Botswana. Officials prosecuted all three individuals for forced labor and continued prosecutions against 11 alleged traffickers from previous reporting periods, and all prosecutions remained ongoing at the close of the reporting period. This was compared to no new prosecutions but continuing the same 11 prosecutions in the previous reporting period. The government did not convict any traffickers. This was a decrease from convicting five traffickers in two cases in the previous reporting period. Due to the pandemic, courts did not operate for a significant part of the reporting period. Experts noted the slow pace of Botswana’s judicial system and the lack of qualified interpreters hindered authorities’ ability to prosecute trafficking crimes.

Law enforcement did not investigate reports of government officials allegedly complicit in human trafficking offenses. Neither labor inspectors nor law enforcement investigated the private farms in Ghanzi that officials acknowledged held San individuals in conditions indicative of forced labor. In addition, some local governments and labor inspectors provided advance notice to the farm owners before inspection. Botswana’s laws were broad enough to allow for conviction of political prisoners, and the laws granted authorities the discretion to subject this population to unlawful prison labor, including to private contractors outside of prisons, with indicators of forced labor for private gain. Authorities acknowledged corruption as a general impediment to law enforcement efforts.

The Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) continued to support specialized anti-trafficking units and monitored the investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases. The Ministry of Defence, Justice, and Security (MDJS) funded and conducted a trafficking and smuggling training for 30 security and intelligence officers. Due to the restrictions on large gatherings during the pandemic, the government could not carry out any additional planned training for DPP and other officials. The police academy continued to include a human trafficking module in its curriculum to educate recruits and in its in-service training for officers on the anti-trafficking law, victim identification, and investigation of human trafficking cases. The government did not report cooperating with any foreign governments, compared to collaboration on multiple cases in the previous reporting period.

The government decreased efforts to identify and protect trafficking victims. The government identified three foreign child victims of sex and labor trafficking. This was a substantial decrease from identifying 24 foreign trafficking victims within Botswana in the previous reporting period. NGOs identified an additional six trafficking victims but did not report the type of exploitation. The government did not have formal procedures to proactively identify trafficking victims and did not fully operationalize the 2014 law’s victim referral measures. Nevertheless, officials coordinated with NGOs to refer all identified victims to NGO-run facilities providing shelter, medical care, and other services. The government and NGOs also continued to care for 32 trafficking victims identified in previous reporting periods. The government did not operate any victim shelters. It generally referred female trafficking victims to government-supported NGO shelters for victims of crime or funded housing in hotels. NGO shelters did not permit adult trafficking victims to work or to leave without a chaperone. The government provided 650,000 pula ($60,190) to NGOs that cared for trafficking victims. This was a significant decrease from spending 4.69 million pula ($434,300) for victim care in the previous reporting period, but in line with overall decreases in government funding due to the pandemic. The government allocated COVID-19 tests to identified trafficking victims so they could be expeditiously transferred to shelters and receive services.

Six trafficking victims sought voluntary repatriation, but the government could not accommodate the requests due to border closures and travel restrictions stemming from the pandemic. Instead, the government referred the victims to NGO shelters and services. While the government did not have a formal policy of providing longer-term shelter or residency to foreign trafficking victims, it stayed deportation for three Zimbabwean victims as the cases against their traffickers continued. The government collaborated with INTERPOL and the Government of South Africa to identify and repatriate two Batswana sex trafficking victims in South Africa. To encourage victims to participate in trials against their traffickers, the government provided at least one victim witness with transportation to court and conducted all victim testimony in closed courtrooms. Botswana law provides for restitution for trafficking victims after conviction of their trafficker, but the government did not convict any traffickers. There were no reports officials penalized victims for unlawful acts their traffickers compelled them to commit; however, some victims may have remained unidentified and subsequently penalized due to the government’s failure to employ systematic measures to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations.

The government maintained prevention efforts. The AHTC, established under the MDJS, met twice, similar to prior reporting periods. The committee led implementation of the 2018-2022 anti-trafficking national action plan, and the government devoted the equivalent of approximately $92,000 towards implementation, which was similar to the funding allocated in prior years. The government increased efforts to self-assess its trafficking problem and response. MDJS created and distributed a survey to ministries to assess the effectiveness of the government anti-trafficking efforts, and it produced the first of an expected bi-annual public report on trafficking in persons. As in previous years, MDJS held a public awareness-raising event on trafficking on World Day Against Trafficking in Persons in July 2020. With support from an international organization, the government contributed information to a centralized anti-trafficking database that collected national data on criminal cases and victims identified and shared it with countries in the region.

Labor inspectors did not adequately monitor for forced labor. Inspectors lacked funding and covered large swaths of territory that made routine inspections impossible. Labor inspectors reportedly did not visit Ghanzi province, where officials acknowledged private cattle farmers exploited San individuals in conditions indicative of forced labor since 2014. The government largely permitted child labor in agriculture, in some cases forced, to continue without oversight because of its cultural nature; the government did not identify any child labor victims in 2020. Enrollment in school required an identity document, usually a birth certificate or other national card known as an omang. Many San families did not have either document, which rendered their children unable to enroll in school and more likely to work on farms, at times in exploitative conditions. The government did not have procedures to screen for trafficking in the labor recruitment process; it relied on recruitment agencies to proactively do so and self-report. Moreover, Botswana law did not prohibit labor recruitment practices that traffickers commonly exploit, including the charging of recruitment fees, confiscation of workers’ passports, unilateral contract switching, and withholding of wages. The government began collaboration with an international organization to identify foreign recruitment agencies operating within the country. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Botswana, and traffickers exploit victims from Botswana abroad. Many trafficking victims in Botswana are Central African economic migrants intercepted by traffickers while transiting Botswana to South Africa. Traffickers transport some child sex trafficking victims through Botswana en route to exploitation in South Africa. Within Botswana, traffickers target unemployed women, the rural poor, agricultural workers, and children. Some relatives force their family members into domestic work, cattle herding, and commercial sex. Some parents in poor rural communities send their children to work for wealthier families as domestic servants in cities or in agriculture and cattle farming in remote areas, increasing their vulnerability to forced labor. Extended family members may subject their young Batswana domestic workers to conditions indicative of forced labor, including denial of education and basic necessities; confinement; and verbal, physical, or sexual abuse. Criminals exploit some Batswana girls and women in commercial sex within the country, including in bars and along major highways. Officials acknowledged the forced labor of adults and children of the San ethnic minority group in private cattle farms in Botswana’s rural west, particularly in Ghanzi district. Most cattle farm owners are white emigres from South Africa, whose relationships with local government officials allow them to avoid inspection. Restrictions on freedom of movement and systemic delays in obtaining refugee status and permission to work render the approximately 800 refugees, most located in Dukwi refugee camp, vulnerable to traffickers. There are reports child refugees from the camp are exploited in sex trafficking, including by South African truck drivers transiting Botswana. Botswana’s laws allow for conviction of political prisoners, and the government may have subjected such prisoners to unlawful forced labor for private gain, including to private contractors outside of prisons.

Traffickers transport Batswana individuals to Zimbabwe for forced labor. Organized trafficking rings subject some Batswana women to trafficking internally or transport women from neighboring areas, including South Africa, Zimbabwe, and East Africa, and subject them to sex trafficking in Botswana. Some traffickers entrap victims through social media, including through advertisements for fake employment opportunities. Traffickers exploit Zimbabwean and Namibian individuals in forced labor in agriculture in Botswana. Traffickers likely exploit some undocumented Zimbabwean children in commercial sex and forced labor in Botswana. Cuban medical personnel working in Botswana may have been forced to work by the Cuban government. Bangladeshi traffickers have brought Bangladeshi women to Botswana for sex trafficking.

U.S. Department of State

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