LESOTHO: Tier 2
Lesotho is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking, and for men subjected to forced labor. In Lesotho, Basotho children are subjected to domestic servitude and forced labor in animal herding; children, especially orphans who migrate to urban areas, increasingly are subjected to sex trafficking. Basotho women and girls seeking work in domestic service voluntarily migrate to South Africa, where some are detained in prison-like conditions or exploited in sex trafficking. Some Basotho men who migrate voluntarily, although illegally and often without identity documents, to South Africa for work in agriculture and mining become victims of forced labor; many work for weeks or months before their employers turn them over to South African authorities for deportation on immigration violations to avoid paying them. Basotho are also coerced into committing crimes in South Africa, including theft, drug dealing, and smuggling under threat of violence or through forced drug use. Foreign nationals, including Chinese, subject their compatriots to sex trafficking in Lesotho.
The Government of Lesotho does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government made progress in prosecution and protection, including instituting new systems to build capacity for improvement in these areas. The government convicted a sex trafficker and sentenced him to 15 years’ imprisonment (10 years suspended), identified more potential trafficking victims, issued implementing regulations for the 2011 anti-trafficking act, signed an agreement with South Africa aimed at increasing protections for Basotho workers employed there, and established a multi-agency taskforce to coordinate the investigation of trafficking cases. Despite these measures, the anti-trafficking law still does not comply with international law, and the government did not provide funding for the Victims of Trafficking Trust Fund or sufficient resources for anti-trafficking law enforcement and protection efforts. It continued to rely on NGOs to assist victims. Jurisdictional issues in the courts continued to impede trafficking prosecutions.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR LESOTHO:
Address jurisdictional issues impeding the adjudication of trafficking cases and increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes, including complicit officials; provide financial support for the Victims of Trafficking Trust Fund and implement procedures for administering the funds; develop and implement guidelines for proactive victim identification and standard operating procedures for referring identified victims to care, in line with the anti-trafficking act regulations; allocate funding to support operation of the multi-agency anti-trafficking taskforce; expand efforts to provide trafficking-specific training to investigators, prosecutors, judges, and social service personnel; complete renovations and continue to work with NGOs to ensure the availability of a suitable facility for the care of victims of trafficking; amend the anti-trafficking and child welfare laws so that force, fraud, or coercion are not required for cases involving children younger than age 18 to be considered trafficking crimes and penalties for trafficking crimes are sufficiently stringent to deter potential traffickers; provide anti-trafficking training to diplomatic personnel; increase efforts to systematically collect and analyze anti-trafficking law enforcement and victim protection data; and increase oversight of labor recruitment agencies licensed in Lesotho.
The government increased anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The legal framework for addressing human trafficking, however, still includes definitions that are not in line with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol and penalties that are not sufficiently stringent to deter the crime. The 2011 Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act prohibits and punishes all forms of trafficking in persons; however, inconsistent with international law, the use of deception, threat, force, or other means of coercion is required for a child to be considered a trafficking victim. The law prescribes penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment or a fine of one million maloti ($64,284) under section 5(1) for the trafficking of adults and up to life imprisonment or a fine of two million maloti ($128,568) under section 5(2) for the trafficking of children. While these penalties include provisions that are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes such as rape, a provision allowing a sentence in which offenders pay a fine in lieu of serving prison time allows for a penalty that is not proportionate to the crime and does not provide an adequate deterrent to potential perpetrators of trafficking offenses. The definition of trafficking in the 2011 children’s protection and welfare act also requires the use of deception, threat, force, or other means of coercion for a child to be considered a trafficking victim. Section 67 of this act provides penalties of life imprisonment and a fine of up to one million maloti ($64,284) for child trafficking by false pretenses, fraud, or deceit. However, section 77 of the children’s welfare act prescribes penalties of a fine not to exceed 30,000 maloti ($1,929) or 30 months’ imprisonment or both. Allowing a fine in lieu of imprisonment does not provide an adequate deterrent to potential perpetrators of child sex trafficking. Labor recruiters who knowingly recruit workers for forced labor are liable for the same penalties as those who hold them in servitude. Persons who knowingly and unlawfully buy or engage the services of a trafficking victim are considered to have committed a trafficking offense with the same penalties. The government provided an increased penalty when a member of the police or military is convicted of engaging a person subjected to trafficking for the purposes of prostitution. In November 2015, the government issued implementing regulations for the 2011 anti-trafficking act that outline the roles and responsibilities of each ministry in combating trafficking in persons and provide guidelines for police interviews with potential victims and screening procedures.
The government convicted a Chinese national for the sex trafficking of a Chinese woman. The trafficker was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment, with 10 years suspended; the conviction was under appeal and the trafficker remained in prison at the close of the reporting period. A prosecution for domestic servitude ended in acquittal. Five prosecutions were pending at the end of the reporting period; some of these were accepted for prosecution more than a year earlier and in some cases the accused remains in jail. In addition, two cases of alleged labor exploitation were under investigation at the end of the reporting period. In the previous year, the government investigated four cases but did not prosecute or convict any offenders. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses. The government provided trafficking-specific training for police recruits as part of their basic legal training and trained police, immigration officers, and judicial officials on the anti-trafficking law and implementing regulations in Maseru, rural townships, and at border posts during the reporting period. Nonetheless, many law enforcement officials reportedly had limited understanding of trafficking and how to protect victims from potential intimidation. Near the end of the reporting period, the government established an anti-trafficking taskforce under the Ministry of Home Affairs with investigative and logistical support from the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS). The taskforce, comprised of representatives from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Police, Ministry of Justice, and Ministry of Social Development, coordinates the investigation of trafficking cases. The government did not address a jurisdictional issue impeding efforts to hold traffickers accountable: the magistrate courts, which are the court of first instance for trafficking cases, lack authority to impose the maximum penalties allowed in trafficking crimes.
The government made uneven efforts to protect victims. It identified more potential victims of human trafficking, but did not allocate funding for the Victims of Trafficking Trust Fund or provide financial support for protective services for victims. The Child and Gender Protection Unit (CGPU) within the LMPS identified 18 potential trafficking victims, compared with 11 the previous reporting period. CGPU referred six potential victims to an NGO that provided counseling and assistance to trafficking victims and referred one child victim to a local charity that specialized in rehabilitation for abused children, compared with five referrals during the previous period. The government continued to rely on NGOs to assist victims and did not provide financial support to the NGOs. In March 2016, the government signed an agreement with an NGO to facilitate the NGO’s re-establishment of a crisis care shelter for female victims of trafficking. Under the agreement the government committed to provide a facility for the shelter and utilities, and to permit the NGO staff to operate the shelter and provide counseling and other rehabilitative services for female victims of trafficking and their children. The anti-trafficking act regulations issued during the reporting period outlined the roles and responsibilities of each ministry in combating trafficking in persons, defined the rights of victims of trafficking, and also established procedures and standardized forms for screening and identifying victims of trafficking and for applying for funds from the victims of trafficking trust fund. Government hospitals and clinics offered free medical, psychological, legal, and life skills services to victims of crime, including trafficking; it is unknown whether trafficking victims received such services in 2015. The anti-trafficking act and its implementing regulations protect victims from prosecution for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking, provide foreign victims with permanent residency as a legal alternative to their removal, and encourage victims to assist in the investigation of traffickers; however, it was unclear whether the government implemented these provisions.
The government increased its efforts to prevent trafficking through public awareness activities and measures to protect Basotho workers in South Africa. The multi-sectoral committee met three times, and its member ministries conducted public awareness activities, including a national event to honor world anti-trafficking day, radio spots, public rallies, posting and distribution of printed material in public areas, presentations for primary school students, and outreach at border posts.
As of October 2015, the Ministry of Labor and Employment had conducted approximately 1,794 inspections of formal sector work sites; however, it did not inspect informal work settings, where forced labor is more prevalent. Only three of 38 labor inspectors received specialized training on child labor inspections; labor inspectors did not identify any child labor violations in 2015. In 2015, the government signed an agreement with the Government of South Africa that increases protections for Basotho workers, including domestic workers, employed in South Africa, by authorizing the issuance of long-term work permits, requiring signed employment contracts, and allowing Basotho to register for unemployment insurance in South Africa. During the reporting period, the government conducted a campaign to raise awareness of this program and thousands of Basotho registered in Lesotho, the first step in obtaining a long-term work permit in South Africa. The government also initiated a program to facilitate issuance of identity cards to more than 2,500 Basotho who transit informal border crossings frequently as day laborers or herders. The government made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex by posting flyers in public places. The regulations for the anti-trafficking act directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to provide anti-trafficking training to diplomatic personnel, but it did not conduct such training during the reporting period.