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Eswatini (Tier 2 Watch List)

The Government of Eswatini does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. These efforts included convicting more traffickers and identifying more victims. However, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared with the previous reporting period, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity. The lack of government coordination, leadership by the Inter Agency Task Force for the Prevention of People Trafficking and People Smuggling (Task Force) and the Prevention of People Trafficking and People Smuggling Secretariat (Secretariat), dedicated funding, and specialized anti-trafficking training for front-line officers continued to hamper anti-trafficking efforts. Serious allegations of trafficking and abuse of trafficking victims against senior government officials in protection roles have remained pending for multiple years. The government did not refer all identified victims to services. The first shelter for victims of trafficking and gender-based violence (GBV), refurbished in a collaborative effort with foreign donor support, remained inoperable. Therefore Eswatini was downgraded to Tier 2 Watch List.

  • Increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, including allegedly complicit officials.
  • Launch and operationalize the refurbished shelter dedicated to providing care for victims of trafficking and GBV, including by utilizing shelter guidelines, management plans, and government resources.
  • Appoint a new magistrate to fill the vacancy of the lead magistrate on trafficking in persons to adjudicate trafficking cases and issue protection orders for victims.
  • Appoint a new protection officer in the Secretariat to ensure trafficking victims are appropriately identified and referred to services.
  • Train law enforcement, social workers, and other front-line officials to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, including at-risk children, migrants, and Cuban medical workers, and refer all identified trafficking victims to appropriate protection services.
  • Implement the National Strategic Framework and Action Plan (NSFAP) to Combat People Trafficking (2019-2023).
  • Increase coordination and adequately fund mandated activities of the Secretariat and the Task Force to enable the Task Force to fulfill its statutory responsibilities.
  • Identify key NGO partnerships for protective services and strengthen coordination on victim protection.
  • Improve trafficking data collection and analysis of anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts.
  • Conduct anti-trafficking public awareness campaigns.
  • Amend the Employment Act to create strong regulations and oversight mechanisms of labor recruitment companies, including by eliminating recruitment fees charged to migrant workers and holding fraudulent labor recruiters criminally accountable.

The government maintained minimal 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 ($6,300), 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 two human trafficking investigations and continued at least one investigation from the previous reporting period, compared with three investigations initiated in the previous reporting period. The government reported initiating three prosecutions, two for sex trafficking and one for labor trafficking, and continuing at least one prosecution from the previous reporting period, compared with two prosecutions initiated in the previous reporting period. Reportedly, the government convicted five traffickers, compared with one conviction in the previous reporting period. One conviction was brought under the anti-trafficking law; charges were not reported for the other convictions. The government did not provide any information on sentencing. Both the pandemic and civil unrest diverted law enforcement and judicial resources away from efforts to combat trafficking in persons during the reporting period. Court closures due to the pandemic and civil unrest caused significant delays in the judicial process. The government imposed a pandemic-related curfew for most of the reporting period, which negatively impacted efforts of government officials.

Corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns. In recent years, senior government officials were investigated, prosecuted, and convicted for trafficking crimes or the abuse of trafficking victims under the care of the government; however, these cases faced significant delays due to a backlog of court cases. For the third consecutive year, a criminal prosecution remained pending against the government’s senior protection officer employed in the Secretariat, who allegedly threatened and assaulted three foreign trafficking victims residing in the government’s temporary shelter in 2019. For the second consecutive year, criminal prosecution remained pending against the Director of the National Children’s Coordination Unit in the Deputy Prime Minister’s office for allegedly kidnapping, trafficking, and sexually assaulting a child from 2017 through 2019. Both officials remained employed but suspended with full pay at the end of the reporting period. Additionally, there were reports from prior reporting periods of immigration officials soliciting bribes to issue government documents, such as visas.

Systemic judicial issues, including a weak case management and coordination system; a shortage of judges, magistrates, prosecutors, and courtrooms; and a lack of access to legal representation for crime victims contributed to delays in all cases, including trafficking. The sole magistrate, responsible for issuing victim protection orders required for victim identification under the NRM and for hearing cases against traffickers, retired during the reporting period without completing active prosecutions, which were placed on hold. Observers commented that the lengthy appointment process for a new magistrate may cause significant delays and inhibit victim protection. Rural women often faced substantial obstacles obtaining relief for various crimes because communities pursued family intervention first and then used traditional courts, which viewed female victims of crime as “unruly” and “disobedient.” In previous reporting periods, observers reported that the lack of collaboration of leadership at the Secretariat impeded anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, resulting in some officials circumventing the Secretariat to facilitate initiatives and communication between members of the Task Force. It was not reported if this changed during the reporting period. The government did not report providing anti-trafficking training for law enforcement or criminal justice professionals during the reporting period.

The government decreased victim protection efforts. The government identified seven trafficking victims, all girls, including six from Eswatini and one from Mozambique. Government officials reportedly referred one victim to services provided by NGOs; the victim was repatriated in cooperation with an international organization and the Government of Mozambique. This compared with four victims identified and referred to care in the previous reporting period. The government reported using the NRM to identify and refer victims; however, due to the vacancy of the magistrate responsible for trafficking victims’ access to services, it was unclear if implementation was successful. The government reported that both the government and NGOs provided care for victims, both foreign and Swati, including shelter, necessities, counseling, and medical care. Most protection services for trafficking victims were also shared with victims of GBV and other crimes. The government operated one shelter that provided short-term care for up to 24 crime victims and a second training facility with a residential component that could house victims; however, these shelters were of insufficient quality to house victims, particularly for longer stays. When the government shelter was full, the government placed victims with family members or in NGO-operated shelters. Through a multi-stakeholder approach, an international organization assisted the government to refurbish a shelter to house victims of trafficking and GBV with funding from a foreign donor. During the reporting period, the government assumed responsibility to operationalize the shelter through approving shelter guidelines, conducting routine building maintenance, providing furnishings, and dedicating resources for day-to-day operations. The government purchased some furnishings; however, these works remained incomplete, leaving the shelter inoperable at the end of the reporting period. The Secretariat finalized and endorsed the shelter policies and guidelines but awaited adoption. Government officials continued to proactively screen for trafficking at the airport, although they did not identify any victims for the second consecutive year.

The government had procedures to assist victim-witnesses during the court process, including court preparation, translation services, counseling, and use of recorded video testimony. The government did not report providing any protection services to trafficking victim-witnesses during the reporting period and demonstrated an inconsistent understanding of victim rights. 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 ($5,040) annually to a victim protection fund. While Eswatini law allowed judges to order restitution for trafficking victims, none did so during the reporting period.

The government decreased efforts to prevent trafficking. The Task Force, which is composed of government ministries and NGOs and is mandated to coordinate anti-trafficking efforts, met twice during the reporting period; however, the Secretariat, housed within the Prime Minister’s office, led efforts. The government continued to implement its NSFAP (2019-2023) but only through awareness-raising efforts during the reporting period. It was not reported if funding was devoted to its implementation for the reporting period. Long-standing bureaucratic delays and communication gaps within the Task Force and Secretariat continued to hamper coordination efforts. In addition, while Task Force member agencies had individual mandates to address trafficking, they did not receive funding to implement such efforts. The Secretariat had an allocated budget; however, the funding disbursement was delayed during the reporting period, which hindered coordination efforts.

The government, in partnership with an international organization, held seven events in four provinces to raise public awareness, targeting religious institutions, traditional gatherings, and childcare providers in rural community centers, and it held a weekly radio program. The Secretariat continued using anti-trafficking posters at various land borders and the airport. While the government had a trafficking-specific hotline, it had limited operations for the second consecutive reporting period due to lack of funding. The government did not report collecting, analyzing, or contributing human trafficking data, as reported in previous years. The government did not have policies and procedures to regulate labor recruiters and brokers, and it permitted charging fees to workers. Labor inspectors received training on identifying forced and child labor; however, the labor inspectorate had an insufficient number of inspectors 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. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel.

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 vulnerable communities, particularly those 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 exploitative employers. Swati children may face difficulties in accessing assistance due to the lack of citizenship documentation. Mozambican boys migrate to Eswatini for work washing cars, herding livestock, and portering; traffickers exploit some of these boys 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 victims with promises of economic opportunities in Eswatini or abroad, particularly South Africa. Some traffickers exploit Swatis in sex trafficking, including orphaned girls and girls from poor families, who voluntarily migrate in search of work, particularly in South Africa. Reports suggest labor brokers fraudulently recruit and charge excessive fees to Swati nationals for work in South African mines, which are common tactics used by traffickers. Traffickers recruit Swati men in border communities for forced labor in South Africa’s timber industry. Previous reports indicate Swati students were fraudulently recruited for educational opportunities in Taiwan and coerced to work in exploitative conditions in chicken factories.

U.S. Department of State

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