Letsosa rolls up his sleeves to improve Lesotho’s image


…as second report on human trafficking status expected soon


MASERU – Two young women from an unnamed African country were returned at the Moshoeshoe 1 international airport after they were interrogated by officials about their visit to this country and their story failed to add up, Home Affairs minister Motlalentoa Letsosa, has said. Letsosa was speaking in an interview with Public Eye this week outlining his ministry’s successes to fight and create awareness about human trafficking.

“…initially the women said they had come to visit their boyfriend who will come to pick them up from the airport. Unfortunately, the so-called boyfriend did not even know them and when he was questioned about their relationship he said he was just send to pick up the women whose pictures he had.” The story of the women is just a tip of the iceberg on how Lesotho has been dealing with human trafficking with the outside world and how it has been responding.

Letsosa has been seen working tirelessly engaging on campaigns to fight and create awareness on human trafficking across the country, making Basotho aware of possible cunning strategies of human traffickers. The campaign is in accordance with the Government of Lesotho’s commitment to combat anti-Trafficking in Persons (TIP), he said.

Lesotho’s Act No 1 of 2011 defines TIP as, “An Act to provide for the prohibition, prevention, prosecution and punishment of perpetrators of the offence of trafficking in persons and other related offences. Contains measure to protect, rehabilitate and reintegrate victims of trafficking.” Letsosa said at the moment the ministry is determined to continue with investigations that involve Basotho in human trafficking acts and will reveal the findings as soon as the investigations are completed.

In November last year at the US Embassy, the Government of Lesotho presented the 2021 TIP progress report from the recommendations from the Department of States. According to 2021 TIP report, Lesotho’s status is on the Tier 2 watch list, which means Lesotho does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.

The report states: “The government made key achievements during the reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity therefore Lesotho was upgraded to Tier 2 watch List. One achievement of the government of Lesotho was having convicted the first trafficker in four years and sentencing him to prison, the report states.

Letsosa said the next status report is likely to be published in June and, depending on how hard he works, he hopes Lesotho will be removed from the watch list. The ministry is not focused on marking the success or achievement by numbers but, instead, it is focused on increasing numbers of victims of TIP to come out and increase the number of reports, he said.

Letsosa said: “Human trafficking has been something that people don’t talk about and now that we make people aware and talk to them about it, we will see success through increased reports of TIP because now people are aware of what kind of actions are human trafficking.”

Judging from the situation in places he has been to so far, he said it seems as though Basotho understand TIP and looking at the reactions and questions that people ask for clarity during outreaches, shows a sign that maybe they are beginning to understand because they suspect TIP could have happened with some people in their villages. As a result, Letsosa said his ministry is hoping TIP reports will increase.

Letsosa noted that the ministry’s target on awareness campaigns is on all people because TIP affects all. “We cannot select any group of people because TIP affects us all. Older people are lied to about job opportunities or they get involved by earning on behalf of their children yet it is their children who are working, not them, so in that way they are the offenders even though they are not aware.” Responding to what kinds of TIP are more popular in Lesotho, Letsosa said it differs with regions.

In rural areas the most common type is that of parents earning money on behalf of their children while their children do the work. In urban areas people are lied to about job opportunities in neighboring countries and study scholarships abroad.

This week alone Letsosa has been embarking on awareness campaigns of trafficking in persons in Maseru. On Sunday he was at the Roman Catholic Church St. Emile in Khubetsoana to speak to the congregation and on Tuesday he was at Masianokeng High School to speak to students. This weekend Letsosa said he will be in Qacha’s Nek town on a human trafficking awareness campaign.

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