NAMIBIA: Tier 2 Watch List
Namibia is predominantly a country of origin and destination for children and, to a lesser extent, women subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Some victims are initially offered legitimate work for adequate wages, but eventually experience forced labor in urban centers and on commercial farms. Traffickers exploit Namibian children within the country through forced labor in agriculture, cattle herding, and domestic service, as well as prostitution in Windhoek and Walvis Bay. Foreign nationals from southern Africa and Europe are among the clientele of children in prostitution. Namibians commonly house and care for children of distant relatives to provide expanded educational opportunities; however, in some instances, these children are exploited in forced labor. Among Namibia’s ethnic groups, San and Zemba children are particularly vulnerable to forced labor on farms or in homes and, to a lesser extent, are exploited in prostitution. NGOs reported persons in prostitution being taken aboard foreign vessels off the Namibian coast, some of whom may be trafficking victims. Children from Angola, Zambia, and Zimbabwe are subjected to prostitution and forced labor in the fishing sector and in organized street vending in Windhoek and other cities. Angolan children may be brought to Namibia for forced labor in cattle herding or to sell drugs. There were reports of exploitative labor—perhaps including forced labor—involving foreign adults and Namibian adults and children in Chinese-owned retail, construction, and fishing operations.
The Government of Namibia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these measures, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Namibia is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a fourth consecutive year. Namibia was granted a waiver from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3 because its government has a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and it has committed to devoting sufficient resources to implement that plan. The government continued its prosecution of an alleged sex trafficking offender initiated in 2012, as well as efforts to finalize draft anti-trafficking legislation. In January 2015, Parliament passed the Child Care and Protection Bill, which was enacted by presidential signature in April 2015, criminalizing child trafficking and outlining protections for such victims. Officials discovered and provided shelter to five potential victims in 2014. The government, however, failed to initiate any new prosecutions during the year and has never convicted a trafficking offender. Some Namibian officials continued to demonstrate a reluctance to acknowledge trafficking and incorrectly insisted that transnational movement is a defining element of trafficking crimes. The government failed to fully institute formal victim identification and referral processes, which led to the deportation of potential victims in 2014. Lack of effective inter-ministerial coordination in the development and implementation of anti-trafficking programming remained a key concern.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR NAMIBIA:
Finalize and enact comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation; increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and punish trafficking offenders under existing law; develop and implement systematic procedures for the proactive identification of victims and their subsequent referral to care; train officials on relevant legislation and identification and referral procedures; train judicial officials to promote consistent use of a broad definition of human trafficking that does not rely on evidence of movement, but focuses on exploitation, consistent with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol; allocate resources and develop a plan to fully operationalize renovated safe houses; appoint a formal government lead for anti-trafficking efforts; proactively investigate and criminally prosecute employers accused of forced labor violations in Chinese retail, construction, and fishing operations; strengthen coordination among government ministries, at both the minister and the working level; and institute a unified system for collecting trafficking case data for use by all stakeholders.
The government maintained modest anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the year. The 2009 Prevention of Organized Crime Act (POCA) criminalizes all forms of trafficking. Under the POCA, persons who participate in trafficking offenses or aid and abet trafficking offenders may be imprisoned for up to 50 years and fined, penalties that are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with punishments prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In April 2015, the government enacted the Child Care and Protection Bill, which includes a provision explicitly criminalizing child trafficking. The Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare (MGECW), the government’s anti-trafficking lead, continued to coordinate the efforts of an inter-ministerial committee responsible for drafting anti-trafficking legislation, including specific protections for trafficking victims, prevention measures, and harsher punishments for child trafficking offenses; the draft bill advanced to the Law Reform Commission and was distributed to the Cabinet Committee on Legislation, yet remained pending passage and enactment at the end of the reporting period.
The government failed to initiate any new prosecutions during the year and has never convicted a trafficking offender. The government’s first known sex trafficking prosecution—initiated in October 2012 under the Swakopmund Magistrate’s Court involving two suspects charged for their alleged role in procuring three females (aged 13, 14, and 18) for sexual exploitation—remained pending. In 2014, the court released one of the accused on the grounds that the victim could not be located and without that witness there was insufficient evidence to hold the accused. The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare did not report on its efforts to investigate forced labor offenses. Following the president’s public criticism of Chinese businesses for mistreating Namibians and violating Namibian labor law in the previous reporting period, Chinese construction and mining companies continued to attract criticism for the conditions under which they employed Namibian workers; however, the government failed to investigate and prosecute suspected forced labor offenders by these companies in 2014. In partnership with UNICEF, MGECW finalized its police curriculum on gender-based violence, including trafficking, during the reporting period; however, the training had not been conducted by the end of the reporting period. The government did not investigate allegations of children working in the homes of officials in 2014 or initiate prosecutions or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking crimes.
The government maintained modest efforts to protect trafficking victims during the year and remained without a process for screening vulnerable populations to identify victims or provide official designation of trafficking victim status. Officials identified and provided shelter to at least five potential trafficking victims during the year, as compared to 14 identified and two sheltered in 2013.
Ordinarily, upon identification of a woman or child victim of crime, including trafficking, police transferred the victim to the Women and Child Protection Unit (WACPU), which has responsibility for referring victims of all crimes to temporary shelter and medical assistance provided by NGOs or other entities. The government did not have formal written procedures to guide officials on the identification of victims or their subsequent referral to care. WACPU’s facilities offered initial psycho-social, legal, and medical support to victims of crime, in cooperation with the Namibian Police, MGECW, the Ministry of Health, and NGOs; however, it remained unclear whether trafficking victims received such services during the year. At least some of the seven renovated facilities that provide long-term accommodations for women and child victims of gender-based violence and human trafficking under the management of MGECW remained inoperative, without the capacity or staff to provide victim services during the year. MGECW provided a social worker and partial coverage of operational costs to the one NGO-managed facility. The NGO-managed facility assisted several trafficking victims during the year.
The government did not have a policy in place to encourage victims’ participation in investigations. The law provides that special accommodations may be made for vulnerable witnesses, potentially including trafficking victims; however, there was no evidence these measures have been employed in trafficking cases. There were no reports victims were detained, fined, or jailed for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking. The government neither made systematic efforts to identify trafficking victims nor employed any mechanism for screening among illegal migrants or individuals in prostitution, which may have left victims unidentified in the law enforcement system. Although no foreign victims were identified in Namibia in 2014, there continued to be reports among local authorities in Rundu and NGOs in Windhoek that police and immigration officials deport foreign street children. In addition, the government remained without the ability to provide temporary or permanent residency to foreign victims.
The government made minimal efforts to prevent human trafficking during the reporting period. The government did not conduct any significant awareness campaigns during the reporting period. The MGECW coordinated an inter-ministerial committee and technical working group both specifically tasked to address trafficking efforts in collaboration with other ministries at the working level; however, it is unclear whether these entities were able to coordinate efforts or delegate responsibilities to relevant stakeholder ministries in developing and implementing trafficking programming. The government appeared to make only limited progress toward implementing the National Plan of Action on Gender-Based Violence 2012-2016, including the anti-trafficking strategy portions of the plan. The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare employed 67 labor inspectors and 21 occupational health and safety inspectors in 2014, which were responsible for enforcing laws against child labor; however, inspectors did not formally identify any child labor violations during the 2,187 labor and 561 occupational health and safety inspections conducted in 2014. The government did not make efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. The government did not report any measures taken to prevent trafficking among Namibian diplomats posted abroad. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training or guidance to its diplomatic personnel.