Every year, thousands of people, majority of them women and girls, fall into the hands of traffickers either in their own countries and abroad.
Human trafficking is a vice that takes place in every corner of the world. Rwanda is no exception.
The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) labels human trafficking, also known as trafficking in persons, as a serious crime and a grave violation of human rights.
It defines human trafficking as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person for the purposes of exploitation.
Exploitation includes prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of body organs.
The UNODC 2016 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons indicates that more than half of the 2,580 victims detected in sub-Saharan Africa, whose form of exploitation was reported, were trafficked for forced labour.
Rwanda is considered a source and transit route, for women and children subjected to trafficking in persons.
According to Peter Karake, the commissioner for Interpol-Rwanda, owing to the fact that human smuggling is a global concern that requires immediate attention, the force has put in place preventive measures.
“The measures are both internal and external in nature. We have laws in place to implement, awareness campaigns to enlighten Rwandans on the nature of the problem and their role in preventing these inhuman acts, but also external frameworks with other police institutions and organisations to locate and rescue victims wherever they may be,” said Karake.
Rwanda National Police currently has about 25 bilateral and 10 multilateral ties with police institutions and organisations, respectively.
This is in addition to at least 30 local memoranda of understanding signed with all the districts, partly to raise awareness about human trafficking and people smuggling.
Human trafficking is the trade of humans, most commonly for the purpose of forced labour, sexual slavery, or commercial sexual exploitation for the trafficker or others whereas people smuggling implies the procurement for personal, financial or material gain, of the illegal entry into a state of which that person is neither a citizen nor a permanent resident, fraudulently.
“Through these partnership structures, we were able to rescue at least 88 human trafficking and people smuggling victims since 2014 – majority of them girls – and arrested a number of traffickers. Some of the victims were intercepted even before crossing our borders,” Karake said.
Indeed, on Tuesday, Police in Burera District intercepted and arrested a 20-year-old woman, who was trafficking four young girls aged between 11 and 15 years, to Uganda.
Statistics indicate that between 2009 and 2013 alone, RNP handled over 36 cases involving 153 victims in transit route intercepted in Rwanda, including 51 Bangladeshis. Overall, 90 per cent of the victims are female, 82 per cent of them aged between 18 and 35.
The majority of the victims are rescued from Uganda, Mozambique, South Africa, Oman, China, Dubai, Malaysia and other Asian countries, said Karake.
“Two other girls are set to return home soon from Malaysia after facilitating the Malaysian justice in the prosecution of two people suspected to have trafficked them,” he added.
The court case of the two suspected traffickers resumes today in Malaysia where the girls are set to give their testimonies before they start their journey back home.
Karake said that, due to the good cross-border partnership with other police forces, the majority of suspects are tried in countries where they are arrested.
Currently, RNP has an anti-human trafficking directorate, partly charged with locating and rescuing victims as well as ensuring that suspects are put on the Interpol log – I-24/7 communication tool – of wanted criminals which, Karake said, have facilitated the process.