31 Basotho rescued from trafficking



MASERU – Minister of Home Affairs Motlalentoa Letsosa has said the government recently rescued a total of 31 Basotho from being trafficking. This, he said, is significant progress the government has made since embarking on a campaign to rescue Basotho from the scourge of human trafficking.

Letsosa made these pronouncements on national television on Tuesday night, expressing his gratification at the fact that Lesotho has stepped down from tier 3 to tier 2.

At that position, he said the government is at least seen to be doing something against the crime of trafficking in persons. This, he said, was achieved through working with public servants at different border gates across the country, in the process rescuing the 31 people who were to be trafficked.

“We have government employees stationed at the borders who are able to identify people who are being trafficked. “Trafficked persons have common signs that can easily be identified that include unusual movements,” he said.

Studies show that the high human trafficking statistics are being triggered by the escalating unemployment rate and desperation for jobs. This results in some people selling themselves as cheap labour while others dabble willingly in sex work in neighbouring countries, mainly South Africa.

Letsosa said the government has, among others, identified a number of people who operate as pimps in Lesotho, who sell especially young Basotho girls in South Africa. “They pay these girls small amounts of money for the sex work they do in South Africa,” he said, adding that this has now grown into a booming industry.

He said last year, Lesotho was on tier 3 where the United States rates countries that cannot control crimes like human trafficking. “When the country was on tear 3, its relationship with the US had deteriorated as it is rated as being unable to control criminal activities within its borders.”

He said America is now content that Lesotho is trying to combat human trafficking even under these trying times of the Covid-19 pandemic. One person, he said, has already been sentenced for human trafficking without been given the option to pay a fine.

The National Assembly has also reinforced the Anti-trafficking in-persons Law, and the amendment gives magistrates the powers to hear human trafficking cases. “Before that, only the High Court heard such cases,” he said. The law states that anybody found guilty of the crime should be slapped with a jail sentence without an option to pay fine.

The police, Letsosa said are investigating cases of public servants who are involved in trafficking in persons. To deal efficiently with the crime, the government has established a task team made up of stakeholders including police, non-governmental organisations and intelligence officers.

The government has also established a five-year plan to eradicate the crime in Lesotho, he said. “Because of these efforts, the government’s relationship with America has improved and the AGOA deal, among others, is now safe.”

The Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Tumelo Raboletsi, said the American government has asked Lesotho to work hard in probing the involvement of public servants in human trafficking. “The Americans also urged us to work with several non-governmental organisations as trafficking in persons is a web that involves syndicates of criminals,” he said.

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