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BOTSWANA (Tier 2 Watch List)

The Government of Botswana does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.  These efforts included investigating slightly more trafficking crimes; continuing to refer all identified victims to services; increasing cooperation with foreign governments to investigate and prosecute cross-border trafficking crimes; and seeking trafficking survivors’ input in drafting a new NAP.  However, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared with the previous reporting period, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity.  The government did not initiate any new prosecutions or convict any traffickers.  The government did not amend the anti-trafficking law to remove sentencing provisions that allow fines in lieu of imprisonment.  The government identified fewer trafficking victims and remained without formal procedures to identify and refer victims to care, hindering overall protection efforts.  The government continued to rely on civil society to provide most victim services and did not report providing adequate in-kind or financial support for these efforts.  Government efforts to regulate labor recruitment agencies remained minimal, increasing Batswana migrant workers’ vulnerability to trafficking.  Therefore Botswana was downgraded to Tier 2 Watch List.

  • Significantly increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes and seek adequate penalties for convicted traffickers, which should involve significant prison terms.
  • Amend the anti-trafficking law to remove sentencing provisions that allow fines in lieu of imprisonment.
  • Develop and implement formal SOPs for victim identification and referral to care, and train stakeholders on their use.
  • Systematically and proactively identify trafficking victims by screening for trafficking indicators among vulnerable populations, including individuals in the San community, cattle farm workers, migrant workers, refugees, and Cuban medical workers, and refer all identified trafficking victims to appropriate protection services.
  • Increase the availability of protection services – including short-term shelter, long-term housing, counseling, and medical care – for all trafficking victims, including by partnering with and allocating increased funding to NGOs that provide victim care.
  • Conduct comprehensive training for prosecutors and judges on the 2014 anti-trafficking law and hold workshops to foster collaboration and more effectively adjudicate trafficking cases.
  • Finalize, approve, and allocate dedicated resources to implement an updated NAP.
  • Provide specialized anti-trafficking training to labor inspectors to identify and report potential trafficking crimes to appropriate officials.
  • Train government-supported NGO shelter staff on victim-centered, trauma-informed care approaches and ensure trafficking survivors’ freedom of movement while 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 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.
  • Conduct public awareness campaigns, particularly in rural areas.

The government decreased 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 ($39,250), 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 ($3,930), or both, penalties which were significantly lower than those prescribed under the 2014 anti-trafficking act.  During the previous reporting period, the government drafted amendments to the 2014 anti-trafficking act to increase the penalties for trafficking crimes; however, the amendments remained pending parliament’s review for the second consecutive reporting period.  The government, in partnership with an international organization, previously drafted implementing regulations for the 2014 anti-trafficking act to make it easier for judges and prosecutors to use and submitted them to the Anti-Human Trafficking Committee (AHTC); the implementing regulations remained pending the AHTC’s approval for the third consecutive reporting period.

The government investigated four trafficking cases, compared with initiating one investigation in the previous reporting period.  The government did not initiate any new prosecutions, compared with two prosecutions initiated in the previous reporting period.  The government reported 15 prosecutions initiated in previous reporting periods remained ongoing.  The government did not convict any traffickers, compared with four convictions in the previous reporting period.  Observers reported the protracted nature of the judicial system and the lack of qualified interpreters hindered authorities’ ability to efficiently prosecute trafficking crimes.  The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking crimes.  Observers continued to report the government largely permitted child labor in agriculture, in some cases forced, to continue without oversight.  In previous years, observers reported low-level officials, including police officers and labor inspectors, may have ignored trafficking crimes, including by providing advance notice to farm owners before labor inspections.

The Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) continued to support specialized anti-trafficking units and monitored the investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases.  The Botswana Police Service (BPS) training 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 DPP conducted two trainings for Batswana government officials on various human rights topics, including human trafficking.  Despite trainings, observers reported some officials continued to lack an understanding of human trafficking, which may have led to cases going unidentified.  Officials reported cooperating with an international law enforcement organization and foreign governments, including Eswatini, South Africa, and Zimbabwe on human trafficking investigations and prosecutions.  The government signed a cooperation agreement with the Government of Rwanda to enhance law enforcement collaboration on transnational crimes, including human trafficking.

The government decreased victim protection efforts.  The government identified 14 trafficking victims, compared with 31 victims identified in the previous reporting period.  Of the 14 victims identified, traffickers exploited 10 in labor trafficking, and four in unspecified forms of trafficking; 13 were adults (nine men and four women) and one was a girl; all 14 victims were foreign nationals from Bangladesh, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Zambia.  The government remained without formal trafficking victim identification SOPs and did not fully operationalize the 2014 law’s victim referral measures.  The government continued to use existing child protection procedures to refer potential child trafficking victims to care.  Law enforcement maintained primary responsibility for victim identification, and the Department of Social Protection (DSP) administered and facilitated the provision of services.

The government reported referring all 14 identified victims to care.  The government could offer shelter, basic needs, counseling, medical care, and other services to trafficking victims through government-supported NGO shelters for GBV victims.  This compared with all 31 identified victims referred to care in the previous reporting period.  Observers reported the lack of available shelters resulted in victims temporarily staying in hotels or police stations, hindering the provision of overall protection services.  Some government-supported NGO shelters did not permit adult trafficking victims to leave shelters unchaperoned or to work outside of them.  Observers reported protection services available to trafficking victims remained limited and short-term, and government officials often quickly returned victims to their home communities without additional services.  The government did not report the amount of funding it provided to NGOs providing care for trafficking victims, compared with providing 2.78 million pula ($218,230) to NGOs in the previous reporting period.  The government repatriated one trafficking victim identified in a previous reporting period to Tanzania.  The DSP continued to provide counseling services to foreign victims prior to their repatriation.

The government did not have a formal policy of providing long-term shelter, residency, or legal alternatives to removal to countries in which foreign trafficking victims would face retribution or hardship.  The government provided victim-witnesses participating in criminal proceedings with various forms of assistance, including temporary immigration relief, funding for transportation and lodging, and security services.  Botswana law allowed courts to order convicted traffickers to pay restitution to trafficking victims.  Due to a lack of formal identification procedures, authorities may have detained or deported some unidentified trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, particularly individuals in commercial sex or undocumented migrants.

The government decreased efforts to prevent trafficking.  The AHTC, chaired by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), coordinated the government’s anti-trafficking efforts and met regularly.  The government did not report the amount of funding allocated to anti-trafficking efforts, compared with 1.19 million pula ($93,410) to support district councils’ anti-trafficking efforts and 622,980 pula ($48,900) for national coordination and capacity building in the previous reporting period.  The AHTC continued to implement the 2018-2022 NAP, which expired during the reporting period.  In 2021, the MOJ, in partnership with the AHTC, civil society stakeholders, and trafficking survivors, began drafting an updated NAP; however, the government did not report finalizing the updated NAP.  The government conducted awareness-raising campaigns at schools to educate students and teachers on human trafficking vulnerabilities.  The BPS continued to operate a hotline for GBV, which was equipped to accept human trafficking inquiries and make referrals.  The hotline reported identifying and referring to services eight trafficking victims.  The Ministry of Labor and Home Affairs operated a hotline to report potential labor violations, including labor trafficking; the hotline did not report receiving any calls related to trafficking.

The government required licensure and standards for labor recruiters under the Employment Act; however, it remained without procedures to screen for potential trafficking indicators in the labor recruitment process.  Without means for enforcement, the government relied on recruitment agencies to proactively screen and self-report; the government did not report recruitment agencies making such efforts.  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.  In previous years, the government collaborated with an international organization to identify fraudulent recruitment agencies operating within the country; however, the government did not report making such efforts during the reporting period.

Labor inspectors overseeing working conditions in the country conducted inspections, primarily in the agriculture sector; however, the government did not report training labor inspectors on human trafficking or efforts to report potential trafficking crimes identified during inspections to law enforcement.  Labor inspectors continued to lack adequate resources to conduct routine inspections throughout the country, including in informal sectors where children remained especially vulnerable to trafficking.  Enrollment in school required an identity document, usually a birth certificate or other national card known as an omang.  Children without identity documents, including those in rural areas and among the San population, remained particularly vulnerable to trafficking without the option to attend school.  The government did not report providing anti-trafficking training to its troops prior to their deployment as peacekeepers.  The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel.  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 Botswana, and traffickers exploit victims from Botswana abroad.  Traffickers exploit unemployed women, individuals from rural areas, agricultural workers, and children in sex and labor trafficking.  Traffickers exploit Batswana girls and women in sex trafficking in brothels, bars, and in the streets.  Traffickers use social media and other online platforms to post false employment opportunities to recruit and exploit girls in sex trafficking.  Some parents in low-income rural communities send their children to live and work for wealthier relatives or acquaintances in cities or in agriculture and cattle farming in remote areas; traffickers abuse this cultural practice to exploit children in sex and labor trafficking.  Extended family members may subject young Batswana domestic workers to conditions indicative of forced labor, including denial of education and basic necessities, delayed or non-payment of salaries, confinement, and verbal, physical, or sexual abuse.  Owners of private cattle farms and ranches in Botswana’s rural west, particularly in Ghanzi district, exploit adults and children from the San community in labor trafficking.  Most cattle farm owners are white emigres from South Africa, whose relationships with local government officials allow them to avoid inspection.  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 exploit Batswana adults and children in labor trafficking, including domestic servitude and agricultural work, in other African countries, including Cameroon, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.

Botswana hosts more than 900 refugees and asylum-seekers, primarily located in Dukwi Refugee Camp.  Refugees are generally required to live within the camps with restricted movement and limited access to educated and livelihood opportunities, increasing their vulnerability to sex and labor trafficking.  Reports indicate traffickers exploit child refugees in sex trafficking around the camp with foreign truck drivers transiting Botswana often as the customers.  Traffickers intercept and exploit Central African economic migrants transiting Botswana to South Africa.  Traffickers, including organized networks, transport some child sex trafficking victims from neighboring countries, including South Africa, Zimbabwe, and DRC, as well as Nigeria and East African countries, through Botswana en route to exploitation in South Africa.  Traffickers exploit foreign nationals, including children, from other African countries and South Asia, in sex and labor trafficking in Botswana.  Cuban nationals working in Botswana may have been forced to work by the Cuban government.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future