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Namibia (Tier 1)

The Government of Namibia fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Namibia remained on Tier 1. These efforts included referring all identified victims to care; training port employees on trafficking victim identification; and opening eight government-operated shelters and funding three NGOs to provide shelter and care to victims. Although the government meets the minimum standards, it identified fewer victims and initiated fewer investigations and prosecutions. The government did not provide specialized human trafficking training to law enforcement or protection officers. Occasional breakdowns in communication between government officials and civil society and within government ministries led to a lack of coordination among members of the National Coordinating Body (NCB).

  • Conduct trainings and multi-sector information sharing workshops for criminal justice and social welfare professionals on implementing the Trafficking in Persons Act of 2018.
  • Train law enforcement, immigration officials, healthcare workers, social workers, and other front-line responders on using the national referral mechanism (NRM) and standard operating procedures (SOPs) to proactively screen vulnerable populations, including individuals in commercial sex, migrants, refugees, and Cuban medical workers, appropriately identifying and referring trafficking victims to services, especially in rural and border regions.
  • Strengthen coordination and collaboration mechanisms across government ministries and with civil society partners to ensure clear roles and responsibilities, effective anti-trafficking policies, and increased communication.
  • Increase funding to civil society partners that provide accommodation and care to trafficking victims.
  • Vigorously investigate and prosecute sex and labor trafficking crimes and sentence convicted traffickers to sufficiently stringent sentences.
  • Adopt the National Plan of Action (NAP) for Trafficking in Persons 2022-2027.
  • Expand efforts to raise public awareness of human trafficking indicators and risks through sensitization campaigns and community outreach, especially in rural areas.
  • Implement and consistently enforce strong regulations and oversight of labor recruitment companies, including by eliminating recruitment fees charged to migrant workers and holding fraudulent labor recruiters criminally accountable.

The government maintained anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2018, which came into effect in November 2019, criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to 30 years’ imprisonment, a fine not exceeding 1 million Namibian dollars ($62,960), or both. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with punishments prescribed for other serious crimes, such as kidnapping. Courts operated at a reduced capacity due to the pandemic, creating judicial backlogs during the reporting period.

Despite the pandemic’s impact, the government initiated two and continued 16 case investigations, compared with 10 case investigations initiated and 16 continued in 2020. Of the two new investigations, the government initiated one forced labor investigation and one sex trafficking investigation. The government initiated prosecutions of seven defendants, continued prosecutions of 32 defendants, and reported no convictions in 2021; compared with no new prosecutions, continued prosecutions of 18 defendants, and conviction of one trafficker in 2020. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking crimes.

Specialized prosecutors within the Office of the Prosecutor General’s Sexual Offenses Unit prosecuted all trafficking cases in the High Court and worked closely with prosecutors on cases indicted outside of the High Court. The pandemic diverted law enforcement resources away from anti-trafficking efforts during the reporting period, resulting in reduced capacity. Trainings were cancelled due to pandemic-related restrictions on in-person gatherings for the past two reporting periods. This was a decrease compared with training 35 criminal justice practitioners and 166 immigration officials in 2019. The government jointly hosted a multi-day training with an international organization funded by a foreign government to train front-line officials on identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable Angolan migrants fleeing drought in Southeastern Angola. The government used its agreement for mutual legal assistance with the Government of Angola to trace and extradite an alleged trafficker and maintained bilateral law enforcement cooperation agreements with the Governments of Zimbabwe and Angola. The Directors General of the Namibian and Zambian Departments of Immigration met to increase future collaboration on human trafficking.

The government maintained overall protection efforts. The government identified seven trafficking victims, compared with 19 victims in 2020. This included one Namibian child exploited in sex trafficking, two female adults from Namibia and Zambia exploited in labor trafficking, one adult male from South Africa whose exploitation was unspecified, and three additional unspecified trafficking victims. The government reported referring victims to government or NGO-operated temporary shelters, providing assistance to all seven identified victims, and continued to provide care and assist 18 victims identified in the previous reporting period. The government continued implementing SOPs for victim identification and the NRM for referral and provision of services. Police and immigration officials used anti-trafficking pocket manuals outlining the SOPs and NRM. The government did not report providing training to social welfare professionals during the reporting period due to pandemic-related restrictions. Observers reported some government and civil society front-line responders still did not fully understand their roles within the procedures. In practice, labor inspectors and immigration officials contacted the Namibian Police Force (NamPol) when they identified a potential trafficking victim; however, no referrals were reported.

The government and NGOs jointly provided shelter, psycho-social services, medical care, and provision of other basic needs to victims of trafficking, gender-based violence (GBV), and child abuse. The government opened eight shelters available to trafficking victims during the reporting period. Three NGO shelters cared for men, women, and children, although observers noted it was sometimes difficult to find shelter for male victims. Child victims were placed in government residential childcare facilities and provided access to education. Foreign victims had access to the same shelter and services as domestic victims. Shelter staff did not permit victims, including adults, to leave unchaperoned. The government allocated 6 million Namibian dollars ($377,790) to three NGO shelters supporting trafficking victims in 2021, the same as the previous reporting period. Seventeen GBV Protection Units nationwide offered initial psycho-social, legal, and medical support to victims of crime, in coordination with the police, the Ministry of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication, and Child Welfare (MGEPECW), the Ministry of Health and Social Services, and NGOs. Adult victims were able to seek employment and work while receiving assistance, although it is unknown how many victims did so during the reporting period.

All 25 victims identified or assisted during the reporting period voluntarily assisted law enforcement with investigations and prosecutions. Authorities did not condition access to victim services on cooperation with law enforcement; the government provided legal aid, transportation, and witness protection to all victims. The government assigned victim advocates to victims testifying and allowed victims to testify in rooms separate from the courtroom when such rooms were available. Foreign victims could obtain temporary residence visas during legal proceedings. The law allowed victims to obtain restitution and file civil suits against their traffickers; however, no victims to date had received restitution or compensation. Authorities screened vulnerable populations, including irregular migrants, refugees, and individuals in commercial sex, for trafficking indicators.

The government maintained prevention efforts. The NCB, chaired by the MGEPECW, coordinated the government’s anti-trafficking efforts. The NCB met quarterly during the reporting period, compared with twice during the previous reporting period. The MGEPECW worked collaboratively with other stakeholders to draft a five-year NAP on Trafficking in Persons (2022-2027) to align and fund mandated responsibilities, which remained pending adoption at the end of the reporting period. However, coordination issues remained at the operational level due to the lack of designated authority. The government continued implementing its 2019-2023 NAP on GBV, which addressed all forms of human trafficking. Due to pandemic restrictions on in-person gatherings, the government conducted fewer public awareness raising activities. The MGEPECW held an in-person event to commemorate World Day against Trafficking in Persons, and officials distributed brochures on trafficking as part of the MGEPECW’s national awareness raising campaign. The MGEPESW, in collaboration with the Ministry of Works and Transport, Namibia Airports Company, and Namibian Ports Authority, trained port and airport employees on trafficking victim identification and distributed awareness raising materials. The government reported conducting public awareness raising through radio and television programming, and the NCB circulated awareness raising materials electronically.

The government provided in-kind support to an NGO-operated hotline for GBV, child abuse, and human trafficking; the hotline operated daily from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Authorities did not report identifying any trafficking victims from the hotline. With support from an international organization, the government contributed information to a centralized anti-trafficking database that collected national data on cases and victims identified and shared it with countries in the region. The Ministry of Labor, Industrial Relations, and Employment Creation employed an unknown number of labor and occupational health and safety inspectors responsible for enforcing laws against child labor; the government did not report identifying any victims during inspections. The law regulated recruitment agencies and banned employee-paid recruitment fees. The Ministry of Labor, Industrial Relations, and Employment Creation oversaw recruitment agency licensing and managed a database registering job seekers, coordinating overseas job placements, and monitoring employees’ arrival in their intended destinations. However, the government did not report identifying any victims or initiating any investigations into fraudulent recruitment for the second consecutive reporting period. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. The government provided pre-deployment training to its diplomatic corps on identifying, and appropriately referring to care, trafficking victims.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Namibia, and traffickers exploit victims from Namibia abroad. Some victims are initially offered legitimate work by recruiters for adequate wages, but then traffickers subject them to forced labor in urban centers and on commercial farms. Traffickers subject Namibian children to sex trafficking and forced labor in agriculture, cattle herding, and domestic service. With the influx of more than 7,000 Angolan migrants fleeing severe drought and malnutrition in Southeastern Angola, Namibians increasingly employ Angolan children as domestic workers and cattle herders, who may be vulnerable to exploitation. Traffickers bring children from Angola and neighboring countries and subject them to sex trafficking and forced labor, particularly in agriculture, cattle herding, domestic servitude, street vending in Windhoek and other urban centers, and in the fishing industry. Zambian children migrate to work as cattle herders but may be subjected to forced labor. Namibians commonly house and care for children of distant relatives to provide expanded educational opportunities; however, in some instances, traffickers exploit these children in forced labor. Among Namibia’s ethnic groups, San and Zemba children are particularly vulnerable to forced labor on farms or in homes. Traffickers exploit individuals from Angola, Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa in sex trafficking and forced labor. An NGO noted an increase in exploitation of Namibians seeking economic opportunity abroad and an increase in labor trafficking of adult male victims in Namibia’s agricultural sector, in part due to the pandemic. Traffickers increasingly use social media to advertise false jobs and groom potential victims, in part due to pandemic movement restrictions. Cuban nationals working in Namibia on medical missions may have been forced to work by the Cuban government. Traffickers allegedly operate at the international airport.

U.S. Department of State

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