Human trafficking in Mozambique
Mozambique is a source and, to a much lesser extent, a destination country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced labor and forced prostitution. The use of forced and bonded children laborers is common in rural areas of the country, often with the complicity of family members. Women and girls from these rural areas are also lured to cities with promises of employment or education, as well as to South Africa for involuntary domestic servitude and forced prostitution. NGOs report that Mozambican victims of sex traffickers were taken by traffickers to “training centers” in Swaziland and South Africa in preparation for an expected increase in demand for prostitution during the 2010 World Cup. Young Mozambican men and boys are subjected to conditions of forced labor in South African farms and mines; they often labor for months in South Africa without pay and under coercive conditions before being turned over to police for deportation as illegal migrants. Mozambican adults are subjected to forced labor and forced prostitution in Portugal. Women and girls from Zimbabwe and Malawi who voluntarily migrate to Mozambique continue to be manipulated by traffickers into forced prostitution and domestic servitude subsequent to their arrival.
Traffickers are typically part of loose, informal networks of Mozambican or South African citizens; however, larger Chinese and reportedly Nigerian trafficking syndicates are also active in Mozambique. Human traffickers’ internal and cross-border routes are also used to smuggle illicit drugs; often the same facilitators transport both drugs and trafficked victims. In addition, South Asian smugglers who move South Asian undocumented migrants throughout Africa reportedly also transport trafficking victims through Mozambique. Internal and transnational trafficking in persons for the purposes of forcible organ removal to support an off-shoot of the traditional healing industry in South Africa and Mozambique is significant. Witch doctors in Mozambique and other countries forcibly remove various body parts from children and adults, either while the victims are still alive or immediately following violent death, for use in “traditional” medical concoctions intended to heal illness, foster economic advancement, or hurt enemies.
The Government of Mozambique does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these efforts, including work on the development of implementing regulations for its new anti-trafficking law, the government did not show evidence of increasing efforts to address human trafficking, particularly efforts to prosecute or convict trafficking offenders as it has done in the past, or to investigate continuing reports of government officials’ complicity in trafficking crimes.
In September 2008, the government enacted a new comprehensive human trafficking law. The law prescribes penalties of 16 to 20 years’ imprisonment for those recruiting or facilitating the exploitation of a person for purposes of prostitution, forced labor, slavery, or involuntary debt servitude; these penalties are sufficiently stringent and exceed those for other serious crimes. During 2009, the government again budgeted $360,000 to support enforcement of the law and for a second year did not allocate this funding to any government entity. Implementing regulations for the law have not been issued; without these regulations, the police were not generally in a position to arrest suspected trafficking offenders and conduct an investigation that could successfully support a court case. The government formed partnerships with NGOs to provide anti-trafficking seminars for new police officers throughout the country. Police reported arresting trafficking offenders and breaking up several trafficking schemes during the year, including the arrest of at least one suspected trafficking ringleader. In January 2010, police arrested a man in Beira for allegedly running a criminal ring involved in the sale of hard drugs and in sex trafficking. The media reported that the suspect had at least one police officer on her payroll. In March 2010, police arrested eight traffickers after being alerted by undercover journalists that the traffickers had offered to “sell” them several girls and women. Within weeks, all of the suspects were released on bail. Traffickers commonly bribed law enforcement officials to allow their movement of trafficking victims internally and across national borders into South Africa and Swaziland, sometimes without passports. There is no evidence of widespread government involvement in or tolerance of trafficking; however, there are known cases of government officials facilitating human trafficking. No officials have been investigated, detained, or prosecuted for complicity in trafficking crimes. For the first time, police began to keep statistics on trafficking victims; this data was not available at the time of publication.
The Mozambican government suffers from limited resources and a lack of political commitment regarding human trafficking. Funding for victims’ assistance remained rudimentary, and government officials regularly relied on NGOs to provide shelter, counseling, food, and rehabilitation. The government continued to lack formalized procedures for identifying potential victims of trafficking and referring them to organizations providing protective services. The Office of Assistance to Women and Vulnerable Children continued its partnership with a network of anti-trafficking NGOs to respond quickly to tips on potential trafficking cases and provide care and protection to victims. UNICEF helped police establish the first-ever police station specifically designed to assist women and children, including trafficking victims, in Maputo. A dedicated toll-free number, “116,” became fully operational in November 2009, allowing persons to report crimes against children, including trafficking. Line “116” received 5,239 calls from November through December 2009, though it is not known how many of these were related to human trafficking. An NGO managed the country’s only permanent shelter for child trafficking victims, which operated on land donated by the Moamba District government. The government encouraged victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers and did not penalize victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. The government did not provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they would face hardship or retribution.
The government’s prevention efforts remained weak during the reporting period. The government did not launch a nationwide campaign to foster awareness of trafficking among government officials and private citizens. As a result, most Mozambicans, including many law enforcement officials, reportedly lacked a clear understanding of what constitutes trafficking. Officials met regularly with the Anti-Trafficking Forum, which provided a mechanism through which the government and its NGO partners could discuss trafficking issues and coordinate their anti-trafficking activities. Most anti-trafficking educational workshops were run by NGOs with some government participation. Media coverage of trafficking cases or issues significantly diminished over the past year, although a sting operation which led to the arrest of eight Mozambican and Chinese sex traffickers in March 2010 was featured prominently in the news. Law enforcement officials and partner NGOs monitored major border crossings and immigration patterns for indications of potential trafficking victims, but these officials remained prone to complicity with traffickers. The Ministry of Justice worked with a network of NGOs to develop an anti-trafficking strategy for the 2010 World Cup, which may increase the incidence of trafficked Mozambicans transported to South Africa for commercial sexual exploitation, but implementation was poor. The government did not take any significant measures to reduce the demand for forced labor or commercial sex acts during the year.