Human trafficking is a vice that afflicts East Africa. Our people are victimised everyday as they attempt to flee from poverty. It is one of those issues closely related to the historic shame of slavery; and it is unfortunate that in this age, in this 21st century, East Africans are mostly trafficked to the Arab world and to other Asian Countries. There, they suffer from exploitation of labour and abuse of their humanity.
The thread that cuts across stories of victims of human trafficking from East Africa is the promise, from their traffickers, of better paying jobs in Arabia. The prospect of earning more and sending it back home is alluring to many who may not care to enquire into their working terms and conditions, which always turn sour on arrival. They realise that they will not earn more and the job they thought they signed up for, is not the job they end doing.
We have previously highlighted the plight that human trafficking is in East Africa. It now seems our legislators, East African Legislative Assembly have taken note and come up with a substantive law against human trafficking. Dora Byamukama, EALA member (Uganda) tabled the bill, following the presentation of a report of the committee on Legal rules and privileges, on the EAC Anti-trafficking in Persons Bill, 2016.
Note that the committee’s report relied on the Trafficking in Persons Report published each year by the USA Department of State.
Passing the Bill also follows the Legislative Assembly’s tough call, two months ago, to put a stop to the illegal trade. This was through the EALA resolution of August 20th calling for “urgent action to prevent trafficking in persons, protect the victims and prosecute the perpetrators of trafficking”. A regional law on anti-trafficking of people is, finally here.
According to the Community, “the object of the Bill is to provide a legal framework for the prevention of trafficking in persons, protection mechanisms and services for victims and development of partnerships for co-operation to counter trafficking in persons in the community”
The law seeks to make the following rules:
- Protection of witnesses
- Arrest of suspects
- Unwarranted searches of property suspected of holding victims
- Abolition of international adoption of children in the community
- Tightening measures against recruitment agencies who often engage in human trafficking
- Protection of people with disabilities
- Ensuring uniformity of punishment for the crime across all East Africa states
Everything is, however, not rosy.
All East Africa heads of State must agree to the law before it becomes enforceable law. As soon as they all agree to the bill, it shall be an Act of the Community, superior to all other domestic laws on the subject.
No law is self-sufficient. Our labour laws need revamping. This will ensure looking into recruitment agencies which ferry our citizens to the Arab world.
Measures to aid the citizens stuck in Arabia are overdue. Their stories are harrowing. We must put means in place to rescue them.
More so, our governments need to do more to reduce poverty. The promise of better paying jobs is what accounts for the highest number of cases of human trafficking in East Africa. Empowering youth and women (the majority victims of human trafficking) to access capital for their businesses, the allure for better paying jobs will not be as much. More so, we must encourage job creation initiatives to reduce on the number of unemployed graduates.
We must fight corruption in government offices, relentlessly. It is because of corruption that these recruitment agencies involved in human trafficking get licences to work; human trafficking thrives where there is corruption.
We can only get better, and we can only start somewhere. This is for sure a good step towards curbing the vice. Credit to the EALA!
BY SAMALI BITALA
This article appears in our weekly digital law magazine, The Deuteronomy Vol 7, Issue 4 of October 28th, 2016
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