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Four Ugandans intercepted, deported

by Lesotho Times
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. . . as govt steps up anti-trafficking campaign

’Marafaele Mohloboli/Limpho Sello

 

FOUR Ugandan nationals were intercepted at Moshoeshoe I International Airport and deported from the country between 22 January and 3 February 2022.

This amid fears that they could have been victims of human trafficking, a scourge which the government is working flat out to stamp out.

The United States (US) government considers human trafficking a serious offence and countries like Lesotho, which are on its Tier 2 Watchlist for trafficking, are ineligible to receive various forms of US development assistance.

Compliance with the US government’s recommendations to deal decisively with the human trafficking is part of the eligibility criteria for Lesotho to sign a multi-million-dollar second compact in terms of the US Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).

Outgoing US Ambassador, Rebecca Gonzales, has acknowledged that the Lesotho government has made some “significant” steps since 2020. These include the passing the Anti-Trafficking (Amendment) Act in November 2020 to combat human trafficking by imposing lengthy and even life imprisonment on those convicted of the crime.

Ms Gonzales however, said the government needs to do more including expediting investigations against government officials and others suspected of involvement in the trafficking of persons.

It is against this background that Lesotho has stepped up efforts to deal with the human trafficking scourge by increasing surveillance and monitoring at the country’s ports of entry to ensure that only properly documented people are allowed into the country.

The increased vigilance has resulted in the interception and deportation of the four Ugandans between 22 January and 3 February.

In a press release this week, the Home Affairs ministry stated that on 22 January, two Ugandan men, Bikorwo Muhang Phillip (24) and Byamukana Derick (31) were intercepted at Moshoeshoe I International Airport and deported.

“The two were reported to have been invited by a Ugandan man who resides in Lesotho. They were returned to their country of origin a day later after their sponsor failed to avail himself for an interview,” the ministry said.

It further said that on 31 January 2022, a 24-year-old Ugandan woman, Nakiganda Hadian, was also deported after her sponsor, a Mosotho man only identified as Motjapa, failed to avail himself for an interview with the immigration authorities.  Instead, another Mosotho man, Sefabatho Pakela, had come forth claiming that the latter was his girlfriend.

Last week on 3 February, another 30-year-old Ugandan woman, Namuyiga Sharifa, was also denied entry as her sponsor could not be found to corroborate her story.

In a related development, Home Affairs Minister Motlalentoa Letsosa has embarked on countrywide sensitisation campaigns to raise public awareness about human trafficking.

This week, he toured the textile factories in Thetsane, Maseru. He told workers and employers that he had heard allegations that some people had been trafficked into Lesotho to work at the factories. He said although it had been alleged that the trafficking victims resided at the factories, there had not been given any tangible evidence to support the allegations.

He said the US, the main importer of textile products, would not hesitate to cancel orders if they suspected employees to be victims of trafficking.

He warned the workers to be wary of people who promised them better-paying jobs or even scholarships, saying traffickers often lured their victims with such promises.

“They (traffickers) know that people are easily attracted by offers of jobs with better pay. They also promise scholarships because they know people are desperate to go to school. They can even promise women marriage.

“But all these are just tactics to lure their victims and turn them into slaves or harvest their body parts which they trade for millions,” Mr Letsosa said.

He added that in most cases, the perpetrators were close relatives, friends, and even neighbours who were trusted by the victims hence the need for vigilance at all times.

Meanwhile Home Affairs Principal Secretary, Tumelo Raboloetse, said they had rescued at least 100 people who had fallen victim to traffickers over the past decade.

Mr Raboloetse said most of the interceptions had occurred at the Maseru Bridge, the Maputsoe border and Moshoeshoe I International Airport.

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