MASERU — United States ambassador to Lesotho Robert Nolan says Lesotho should enact a comprehensive law prohibiting all forms of human trafficking.
Nolan was addressing a one-day workshop on human trafficking held in Maseru last Thursday.
The ambassador said although Lesotho was finalising draft legislation on anti-trafficking much work still needed to be done to halt the practice.
He said the US had come up with a three-tier system to rank efforts by countries around the world to combat trafficking in persons.
He said countries listed under tier one, such as Nigeria, had publicly recognised the problem and were taking steps to address the problem.
“Countries ranked under tier two are not doing enough to protect their citizens.
“Lesotho is on the tier two watch-list and if nothing concrete happens it will be automatically downgraded to tier three which consists of countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so,” Nolan said.
He said if Lesotho is downgraded this would seriously affect the bilateral assistance provided by the US to the government of Lesotho.
He said the US government could withhold non-humanitarian, non-trade related foreign assistance such as the Millennium Challenge Compact funding.
Nolan however expressed satisfaction with current efforts to come up with legislation to fight human trafficking.
He urged Lesotho to “provide support to establish and maintain facilities to provide care to victims of trafficking” in partnership with international organisations or NGOs.
Nolan also said Lesotho should “forge a partnership with South African police to investigate reports of Basotho forced to labour on farms in South Africa and prosecute exploitative farm owners”.
He also called on the government of Lesotho to establish a system to collect and analyse data on victims who have been identified and to investigate and prosecute trafficking-related offences.
“Though poverty alone cannot explain the tragedy of human trafficking, these horrendous crimes often originate with the victims’ search for economic alternatives, compounded by fraudulent recruiters, criminal employers, and corrupt officials seeking to reap unlawful profits from the victims’ desperation,” Nolan said.
Speaking at the same workshop, Lesotho’s government secretary Tlohang Sekhamane said trafficking in persons poses a great threat to Lesotho’s existence as it could wipe out the nation if left unchecked.
“It (human trafficking) could wipe us out. We are a very small country with a small population. We are a poor country. I see trafficking in persons as an abomination.
“We need to partner with the South African police to make sure that our people are not trafficked. We should also claim back those who are already victims,” Sekhamane said.
Nolan said between 12 million and 27 million people are currently said to be victims of trafficking with 80 percent of the transnational victims being women and girls while 50 percent are minors.
Unicef estimates that each year more than two million children are exploited in the global sex trade.