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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, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Eswatini remained on Tier 2. These efforts included investigating and prosecuting suspected traffickers, convicting an official for sex trafficking, and sentencing him to a 55-year prison term. In addition, the government identified trafficking victims, referred them to care, and allocated funding for victim services. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government did not have adequate shelter facilities or guidelines to ensure quality of care for trafficking victims, and officials demonstrated an inconsistent understanding of victim protection, at times further traumatizing victims. The government did not make efforts to implement its anti-trafficking national action plan. Labor inspections, particularly in the informal sector, and oversight of the labor recruitment process remained insufficient.

Increase investigations, prosecutions, and convictions of trafficking, including internal cases and allegedly complicit officials. • Improve shelter and care for trafficking victims, including by developing shelter policies or guidelines and allowing victims freedom of movement. • Cease the practice of forcing victims to remain in the country to assist with law enforcement efforts. • Implement the national anti-trafficking action plan. • Address leadership issues at the anti-trafficking secretariat and enable the taskforce to fulfill its statutory responsibilities. • Identify key NGO partnerships for protective services and strengthen coordination. • Train law enforcement, social workers, and other front-line officials to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, including Cuban medical workers. • Improve trafficking data collection and analysis of anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. • 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 Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act prescribed penalties of up to 20 years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to 100,000 emalangeni ($6,820), 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.

The government initiated three trafficking investigations and two prosecutions, compared to initiating five investigations and prosecutions in the previous reporting period. Of the two cases that went to prosecution each involved one defendant. One case involved suspected internal trafficking and the other was transnational. The government concluded both prosecutions. In the first case, the court convicted and sentenced one trafficker, the Director of the Children’s Unit in the Deputy Prime Minister’s office, to 55 years in prison for kidnapping and sex trafficking a girl from 2017 through 2019. In the second case, allegedly transnational trafficking, the government awaited the court’s verdict at the close of the reporting period. This is comparable to conviction of one trafficker in the previous reporting period. The third case remained in the investigation phase. One additional prosecution initiated in a previous reporting period was delayed because the pandemic prevented the participation of foreign witnesses. The government did not report updates on three other prosecutions it had initiated in the previous reporting period. There were reports of trafficking-related government corruption, including immigration officials seeking bribes to issue government documents such as visas.

Systemic judicial issues, including weak data and evidence collection, a shortage of judges and courtrooms, and defense attorneys’ tactics to create protracted trials, contributed to delays in all cases, including trafficking. Rural woman often faced substantial obstacles obtaining relief for various crimes because communities pursued family intervention first and then traditional courts, which viewed female victims of crime as “unruly” and “disobedient.” Due to poor performance by leadership at the anti-trafficking secretariat that impeded anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during most of the reporting period, the cabinet maintained temporary policies to remove the secretariat’s obstacles to such efforts and enhance communication. Due to the pandemic, the government postponed most planned trainings, compared to training police, prosecutors, immigration officers, and social workers on trafficking in the previous reporting period. The government continued to provide anti-trafficking training at the police college for all in-service and pre-service officers. The government continued to cooperate with authorities in Taiwan to support and repatriate Swati victims of exploitation in Taiwan.

The government maintained victim protection efforts. The government identified and referred four trafficking victims to care, compared to six in the previous reporting period. All identified victims were girls, including three from Eswatini and one from Mozambique. The government first referred identified victims to a government facility for initial food, clothing, toiletries, psychosocial support, and medical care. It then reunified the three Swati victims with their families. The government owned one facility that provided short-term care for victims of crime, including trafficking, and had a second training facility with a residential component that could house victims. The shelters, however, lacked operational guidelines and were of an insufficient quality to house victims, particularly for longer term stays; shelter residents did not have a choice of shelter or freedom of movement within the shelters. The government continued to assist an international organization in constructing a shelter for victims of trafficking and gender-based violence. The government had formal procedures to identify trafficking victims and refer them to care. Government officials continued to proactively screen for trafficking at the airport, although they did not identify any victims.

A criminal case remained pending against the government’s primary protection officer, who had allegedly threatened and assaulted three foreign national trafficking victims while they resided in the government’s temporary shelter during the previous reporting period. The government had procedures to assist victim-witnesses during the court process, including court preparation and counseling and use of recorded testimony. The government did not report providing any of these protections to trafficking victim-witnesses during the reporting period and demonstrated an inconsistent understanding of victim rights. For example, the government has refused to repatriate foreign trafficking victims until they provide testimony against their traffickers. The government did not have formal procedures to provide residency to foreign trafficking victims but could do so on an ad hoc basis. The government continued to allocate 80,000 emalangeni ($5,450) annually to a victim protection fund. While Eswatini law allowed judges to order restitution for trafficking victims, none did so during the reporting period. There were no reports the government arrested, fined, or penalized trafficking victims for crimes their traffickers forced them to commit, and law enforcement reportedly screened for trafficking when arresting individuals for prostitution, immigration, and other related offenses.

The government maintained minimal efforts to prevent trafficking. Although the interagency anti-trafficking taskforce, composed of government ministries and NGOs, had the mandate for anti-trafficking efforts, in practice, the anti-trafficking secretariat, housed within the Prime Minister’s office, led efforts. Prior to the pandemic, a few taskforce members met regularly. The taskforce did not report any efforts to implement its 2019-2024 anti-trafficking national action plan, although it did have funding devoted to the plan’s implementation. Long-standing bureaucratic delays and communication gaps within the taskforce and secretariat continued to hamper coordination efforts. In addition, while taskforce member agencies had individual mandates to address trafficking, only the secretariat received funding and staff to implement its trafficking mandate. Even the secretariat often received less than requested.

The pandemic limited most public awareness campaigns, including for trafficking, so the government conducted fewer such events than in previous reporting periods. The secretariat continued to have anti-trafficking posters at various land borders and the airport, and anti-trafficking secretariat and immigration authorities continued to discuss trafficking through television, radio, and print media programs. While the government had a trafficking-specific hotline, it was not operational during the reporting period. 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. The labor inspectorate made insufficient efforts to monitor for forced and child labor. It did not have any funds dedicated for inspections and had to request funds from the general Department of Labor budget. In addition, when it did receive funds, it focused nearly all efforts on the formal sector, while forced labor almost exclusively occurred in the informal sector. 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. Traffickers target 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. Some Swati girls in forced domestic work are physically and sexually abused by their employers. Sex traffickers exploit orphaned Swati girls in “survival sex” in exchange for food and money. Traffickers force Swati boys and foreign children to labor in agriculture, including cattle herding, and market vending within the country. Swati boys, particularly in rural areas, who work on small marijuana (“dagga”) farms are vulnerable to employers. Mozambican boys migrate to Eswatini for work washing cars, herding livestock, and portering; traffickers exploit some in forced labor. Cuban nationals working on medical missions in Eswatini may have been forced to work by the Cuban government. Traffickers use Eswatini as a transit country to transport foreign victims, primarily Mozambicans, to South Africa for forced labor. Traffickers reportedly force Mozambican women into commercial sex in Eswatini or transport them through Eswatini to South Africa. Traffickers entrap Swati forced labor and sex trafficking victims with promises of economic opportunities in Eswatini or abroad, particularly South Africa. Some traffickers force Swatis, including orphaned girls and girls from poor families, 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. Swati students have been fraudulently recruited for educational opportunities in Taiwan and been coerced to work in exploitative conditions in chicken factories.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future