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ESWATINI (Tier 2 Watch List)

The Government of the Kingdom 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 establishing multi-agency emergency response teams (ERTs) to respond to trafficking victim identification.  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.  Lack of government coordination and effective leadership of the Prevention of People Trafficking and Smuggling Secretariat (Secretariat) continued to hinder trafficking efforts.  The government did not allocate funding for the Prevention of People Trafficking and People Smuggling Task Force (Task Force) to coordinate anti-trafficking efforts.  The lack of specialized anti-trafficking training for front-line officers continued to hamper anti-trafficking efforts.  Serious allegations of trafficking and abuse of trafficking victims by senior government officials in protection roles remained pending prosecution for multiple years.  The first shelter for victims of trafficking and GBV refurbished in a collaborative effort with foreign donor-support remained inoperable for the second consecutive year.  Therefore Eswatini remained on Tier 2 Watch List for the second consecutive year.

  • 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 to ensure sustainability of operations.
  • Appoint a new Protection Officer in the Secretariat to ensure trafficking victims are appropriately identified and referred to services.
  • Train law enforcement, social workers, prosecutors, magistrates, immigration officers, 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.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the National Strategic Framework and Action Plan (NSFAP) to Combat People Trafficking (2019-2023) and renew and launch an updated National Action Plan.
  • Increase coordination and adequately fund mandated activities of the Secretariat and the Task Force to enable the Task Force to fulfill its statutory responsibilities.
  • Strengthen coordination with civil society on victim protection, including by partnering with local NGOs.
  • 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 ($5,900), 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 one labor trafficking investigation and continued seven investigations from previous reporting periods, compared with two investigations initiated in the previous reporting period.  The government reported initiating prosecution of two suspects for labor trafficking and continuing prosecutions of three suspects from the previous reporting period.  This compared with prosecuting three suspects in the previous reporting period.  The government convicted three traffickers, compared with five convictions in the previous reporting period; traffickers received sentences of five to 55 years’ imprisonment under the anti-trafficking law.  Prior court closures due to the pandemic and civil unrest continued to cause significant delays in the judicial process.

Corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement efforts.  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 fourth 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 third 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 lack of access to legal representation for crime victims contributed to delays in all cases, including trafficking.  Rural women often faced substantial obstacles obtaining relief for various crimes, potentially including human trafficking, because communities pursued family intervention outside of the courts first and then used traditional courts, which often stigmatized female victims due to social norms.  Observers continued to report the lack of collaboration of leadership by the Head of 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.  The Prime Minister’s office provided ad hoc workshops for immigration officers to raise awareness on human trafficking, but officers did not receive formalized training.

The government maintained victim protection efforts.  The government identified seven trafficking victims, including six from Mozambique and one from Ghana, and referred all victims to services, compared with seven victims identified and one referred to services during the previous reporting period.  The government coordinated with the Government of Nigeria to repatriate one potential trafficking victim and the Government of Mozambique to repatriate trafficking victims and investigate cross-border trafficking cases.  The government had an NRM and reported using it to identify and refer victims to services; however, observers reported front-line officials lacked basic awareness of human trafficking and victim identification and referral procedures.  Government officials reported proactively screening for trafficking at the airport, although they did not identify any victims.

The government’s centralized response to human trafficking and staffing gaps limited its capacity to identify victims.  As proscribed by the NRM, front-line officials were required to report all victim identifications to the Secretariat’s protection officer to consult with victims during screening and coordinate services.  However, during the previous two reporting periods, the protection officer position remained vacant; in response, other members of the Secretariat assumed these duties without sufficient training to engage directly with victims.  Magistrates were responsible for issuing victim protection orders required for victim certification and hearing cases against traffickers, requiring victims to cooperate with law enforcement to receive care.  It was not reported if magistrates received training on victim identification.  In February 2023, the government established multi-agency ERTs, composed of front-line government officials, in all four regions to coordinate emergency services and facilitate victim certification.  In partnership with an international organization, the government provided anti-trafficking training to ERTs during the reporting period.  Government-provided victim protection services were concentrated in Manzini and Mbabane, limiting victim’s access to services and stretching government resources, particularly when court proceedings were in different provinces.

The government and NGOs provided care for victims, both foreign and Swati, including shelter, basic necessities, counseling, and medical care.  Trafficking victims could access services available to GBV and crime victims.  The government operated one shelter that provided short-term care for up to 24 crime victims; however, observers reported conditions at the shelter was inadequate to house victims, particularly for longer stays.  When the government shelter was full, the government placed victims with family members or in three NGO-operated shelters that may not have the resources to care for trafficking victims.  The government did not provide financial or in-kind support to these shelters.  Government officials reported difficulties in obtaining shelter for male trafficking victims.

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.  In the previous reporting period, the government assumed responsibility to operationalize the shelter through finalizing shelter guidelines and management plans, conducting routine building maintenance and providing furnishings, and dedicating resources for day-to-day operations.  Shelter guidelines finalized by the Secretariat awaited adoption for the second consecutive year.  The government contributed 2.3 million emalangeni ($135,710) to shelter renovations during the reporting period and allocated an unknown amount of funding for the shelter’s utilities.  The government purchased some furnishings; however, these works remained incomplete and all shelter staff positions remained vacant, leaving the shelter inoperable for the second consecutive year.  In preparation for operationalizing the shelter, the government, in partnership with an international organization, hosted a three-day training for ERTs on the protection and referral of trafficking victims to the shelter.

The government had procedures to assist victim-witnesses during the court process, including court preparation, translation services, counseling, and use of recorded video testimony, but did not report providing any protection services to victim-witnesses.  The Secretariat’s staff regularly transported victims across the country to participate in investigations and prosecutions.  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 ($4,720) annually to a victim protection fund used for victim services.  Victims could sue for compensation through filing a civil lawsuit against their trafficker or the government, but none did so during the reporting period.

The government maintained minimal efforts to prevent trafficking.  The Task Force, composed of government ministries and international organizations, coordinated anti-trafficking efforts and met regularly.  The Secretariat, housed within the Prime Minister’s office, was mandated to lead the Task Force’s efforts; however, the Secretariat did not always participate in Task Force coordination efforts.  Long-standing bureaucratic delays and communication gaps between the Secretariat and the Task Force 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 and five dedicated staff focused on implementing the government’s anti-trafficking efforts; however, only a portion of its funding was disbursed during the reporting period, which hindered coordination efforts.   The government continued to implement its NSFAP (2019-2023) and formed a committee to evaluate implementation efforts.  It was not reported if funding was devoted to support NSFAP implementation.  Observers reported the government’s limited partnership with local NGOs, including a lack of NGO representation on the Task Force and outreach to district stakeholders, hindered overall efforts.

The government held two events, in partnership with an international organization and a religious institution, in Manzini and Malkerns to raise public awareness, providing informational materials in English and siSwati.  While the government reported operating a trafficking-specific hotline, several observers reported it was not operational.  In partnership with an international organization, the government developed a joint action plan on human trafficking and migrant smuggling with the Government of Mozambique.  The government reported contributing information to a regional centralized anti-trafficking database.  The government did not have policies and procedures to regulate labor recruiters and brokers, and permitted charging fees to workers.  Labor inspectors received training on identifying forced labor and child labor; however, they did not have any funds dedicated for inspections.  The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex.  The government reported providing 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 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.  Mozambican business owners exploit other Mozambicans in forced labor in small retail businesses in Manzini.  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 sex trafficking 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 Emaswati in sex trafficking, including orphans and girls from low-income families, who voluntarily migrate in search of work, particularly in South Africa.  Reports suggest labor brokers fraudulently recruit and charge excessive fees to Emaswati 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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