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Botswana (Tier 2)

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 prosecuting and convicting traffickers and courts sentencing traffickers to adequate prison terms for the first time; cooperating with foreign governments on trafficking investigations; identifying more victims and referring all victims to care; and conducting public awareness activities. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Despite officials’ acknowledgment of forced labor of adults and children in the San community on cattle farms, neither law enforcement nor labor inspectors made concerted efforts to investigate or address the crime. The government continued to lack formal procedures to identify and refer victims to care.

  • Significantly increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, and seek substantial sentences for convicted traffickers.
  • Amend the anti-trafficking law to remove sentencing provisions that allow fines in lieu of imprisonment.
  • Create and implement standard operating procedures (SOPs) to identify trafficking victims and refer them to care, and train stakeholders on their use to increase victim identification and screening among vulnerable populations, including the San community, cattle farm workers, migrants, refugees, and Cuban medical workers.
  • Conduct comprehensive training for prosecutors and judges on Botswana’s 2014 anti-trafficking law and workshops to foster collaboration and more effectively adjudicate trafficking cases.
  • Fund and implement the anti-trafficking National Action Plan (NAP).
  • Routinely inspect cattle farms, including in Ghanzi, to ensure children are not engaged in forced labor.
  • Increase access to emergency and long-term shelter, counseling, and medical care for trafficking victims by dedicating adequate funding to NGOs.
  • Work with NGOs to increase freedom of movement and work opportunities for trafficking victims residing in shelters.
  • Support the provision of legal identity documents among vulnerable populations, including Indigenous peoples, at-risk undocumented migrants, refugees, and stateless individuals. • Implement strong regulations and oversight of labor recruitment companies, including by eliminating recruitment fees charged to migrant workers and holding fraudulent labor recruiters criminally accountable.
  • Conduct public awareness campaigns, particularly in rural areas.

The government increased 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 ($42,700), 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 ($4,270), or both, penalties which were significantly lower than those prescribed under the 2014 anti-trafficking act. The government drafted amendments to the 2014 anti-trafficking act to align with international standards; however, adoption remained pending by the end of the reporting period. The government and an international organization previously drafted implementing regulations for the 2014 act to make it easier for judges and prosecutors to use and submitted them to the Human Trafficking (Prohibition) Committee, which remained pending approval by the end of the reporting period.

The government reported investigating one sex trafficking case and continuing five case investigations from previous reporting periods, compared with initiating three labor trafficking investigations in the previous reporting period. The government prosecuted two suspects for sex trafficking and continued prosecutions against 17 suspects from previous reporting periods. This compared with two new prosecutions and 11 continued prosecutions in the previous reporting period. The government convicted four traffickers under its anti-trafficking law, two for sex trafficking, one for labor trafficking, and one unspecified, compared with no convictions in the previous reporting period. In the first conviction in two years, the government sentenced a Zimbabwean trafficker to 10 years in prison, which was the first prison sentence in several years and a shift from fines and suspended sentences imposed previously. The government did not report sentences for the other convictions. Pandemic restrictions restricted law enforcement efforts to gather evidence and collaborate with regional partners. The government also reported that border closures resulted in a smaller caseload. Courts did not operate for a significant portion of the reporting period and used virtual courts, when possible, resulting in a backlog of cases. Observers also noted the slow pace of Botswana’s judicial system and the lack of qualified interpreters hindered authorities’ ability to prosecute trafficking crimes.

The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking crimes; however, corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action during the year. Neither labor inspectors nor law enforcement reported investigating private farms in Ghanzi acknowledged by officials to hold San individuals in conditions indicative of forced labor. In addition, observers reported some local governments and labor inspectors provided advance notice to the farm owners before inspection. 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. Due to restrictions on large gatherings during the pandemic, the government did not conduct 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 cooperated with the Governments of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Eswatini, and Tanzania on one trafficking prosecution and five investigations during the reporting period. The government reported signing a memorandum of understanding with the Government of Zimbabwe to formalize cooperation on child trafficking cases.

The government maintained efforts to identify and protect trafficking victims. The government identified 31 trafficking victims, compared with three victims identified in the previous reporting period. The government did not have formal procedures to proactively identify trafficking victims and did not fully operationalize the 2014 law’s victim referral measures; however, in the case of child trafficking, the government used existing child protection procedures to referral child victims to care. Primarily, law enforcement held responsibility for victim identification, and the Department of Social Protection administered and facilitated the provision of services. The government reported referring all identified victims to care, which was provided by a combination of government and NGO-run facilities. NGO-operated facilities provided shelter, medical care, and other services, as in previous reporting periods. The government offered shelter, necessities, counseling, and other services to trafficking victims through government-supported NGO shelters for crime victims. The government could also provide temporary shelter for adult victims in hotels. NGO shelters did not permit adult trafficking victims to work or to leave shelters without a chaperone. The government provided 2.78 million pula ($237,400) to NGOs providing care for trafficking victims. This compared with spending 650,000 pula ($55,510) in 2020 and 4.69 million pula ($400,510) in 2019 for victim care.

The government repatriated six trafficking victims who sought voluntary repatriation in the previous reporting period but could not previously be accommodated due to pandemic-related restrictions, and it repatriated three additional victims. The government reported that the case of three Zimbabwean child victims who received deportation relief while cooperating with law enforcement remained ongoing. The government did not have a formal policy of providing longer-term shelter, residency, or legal alternatives to removal to countries in which foreign trafficking victims would face retribution or hardship. To support participation in court proceedings, the government provided victims identified in previous years with transportation and protection services, and it conducted all victim testimony in closed courtrooms as requested during the reporting period. The government also cooperated with foreign governments to facilitate trafficking victims’ participation in trials after repatriation. Botswana law provides for restitution for trafficking victims after conviction of their trafficker, but the government did not report any orders of restitution during the reporting period. Due to a lack of formal identification procedures, authorities may have detained some unidentified trafficking victims among vulnerable populations.

The government increased prevention efforts. The Human Trafficking (Prohibition) Committee, established under the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), coordinated the government’s anti-trafficking efforts and met regularly during the reporting period. The Committee led implementation of the 2018-2022 NAP to which the government devoted 1.19 million pula ($101,370) to support district councils’ anti-trafficking efforts and 622,980 pula ($53,200) for national coordination and capacity building. This compared with equivalent of approximately $92,000 towards implementation in previous reporting periods. The MOJ began development of a new NAP in conjunction with the Committee, other stakeholders, and trafficking survivors. MOJ created and distributed a survey to NGOs and ministries to assess the effectiveness of the government anti-trafficking efforts and produce a bi-annual public report on trafficking in persons; however, the report was not released during the reporting period. The government collected and analyzed human trafficking data but did not report contributing to a centralized anti-trafficking database.

As in previous years, MOJ held a public awareness-raising event on World Day Against Trafficking in Persons in July 2021 and conducted radio programming in June and July 2021. The government trained district councils on human trafficking legal frameworks, referral processes, and the NAP, including in Kgalagadi, Chobe, North West, Francistown, Ghanzi, Kweneng, and Southern districts. The government held seven additional awareness raising events on human trafficking for job seekers, at-risk youth, university students, journalists, civil society organizations, and the public. Pandemic-related school closures hampered efforts to conduct awareness activities with students; other campaigns faced delays due to reallocation of funds.

Labor inspectors did not adequately monitor for forced labor, particularly in remote areas; pandemic-restrictions on government travel further hampered efforts. The government did not report training inspectors on identifying human trafficking. Inspectors also 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; the government did not identify any child labor victims in 2021. 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 required licensure and standards for labor recruiters under the Employment Act; however, there were no procedures to screen for potential trafficking in the labor recruitment process. Without means for enforcement, the government relied on recruitment agencies to proactively screen and self-report. Moreover, Botswana law did not prohibit labor recruitment practices that traffickers commonly exploit, including charging of recruitment fees, confiscation of workers’ passports, unilateral contract switching, and withholding of wages. The government continued collaboration with an international organization to identify foreign recruitment agencies operating within the country but did not report any progress on efforts. The Botswana Police Service operated a hotline for gender-based violence, which was equipped to accept human trafficking inquiries and make referrals. Additionally, the Ministry of Labor and Home Affairs operated a hotline for labor-related problems, including forced labor. Neither hotline reported receiving any calls related to trafficking during the reporting period. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex. The government trained diplomatic personnel on human trafficking prior to deployment. The government did not report providing anti-trafficking training to its troops prior to their deployment as peacekeepers.

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 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 inability to obtain permission to work render the approximately 800 refugees, most located in Dukwi refugee camp, vulnerable to traffickers. There are reports child refugees are exploited in sex trafficking around the camp, including by foreign 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 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, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and East Africa, and subject them to sex trafficking in Botswana. Some traffickers recruit 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 nine cities and villages across Botswana, may have been forced to work by the Cuban government. Bangladeshi traffickers bring Bangladeshi women to Botswana for sex trafficking.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future