Protecting victims of Trafficking in Persons in South Africa

“Victims’ Voices Lead the Way”

Pretoria, South Africa - 10 September 2021 – UNODC Regional Office for Southern Africa, under the framework of the Southern Africa Migration Management (SAMM) Project, and in collaboration with the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development of South Africa, donated Personal Protective Equipment to various shelters for Victims of Trafficking in Persons and Gender-Based Violence in South Africa, in order to ensure that they along with staff in the respective shelters are protected from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following the call for ““Victims’ Voices, Lead the Way”, as a key motto for the 2021 World Day against Trafficking in Persons (TIP) UNODC and the DoJ&CD puts victims of human trafficking at the ventre of assistance. Indeed, most shelters in South Africa and across the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Region are not sufficiently equipped to provide support to victims of trafficking in persons and gender-based violence victims due to lack of infrastructure and scarcity of resources.

The COVID-19 pandemic is putting the world under enormous strain, affecting the lives of everyone. The unprecedented measures adopted to flatten the infection curve include enforced quarantine, curfews and lockdowns, travel restrictions, and limitations on economic activities and public life. While at first sight, these enforcement measures and increased police presence at the borders and on the streets seem to dissuade crime, they may also drive it further underground. In trafficking in persons, criminals are adjusting their business models to the ‘new normal’ created by the pandemic, especially through the abuse of modern communications technologies. At the same time, COVID-19 impacts the capacity of state authorities and non-governmental organizations to provide essential services to the victims of this crime. Most importantly, the pandemic has exacerbated and brought to the forefront the systemic and deeply entrenched economic and societal inequalities that are among the root causes of human trafficking. Despite these challenges civil society organizations have continued to play a key role in ensuring that the shelters remain operational, and their doors stay open.

The handover ceremony was led by Ms Zhuldyz Akisheva, UNODC Regional Representative, Hon. John Jeffery, Deputy Minister of Justice and Mr Bernard Rey, Head of Development Cooperation, European Union delegation in South Africa. The ceremony was attended by representatives of National Prosecution authority, Mercy House Shelter, Mali Martin Polokegong Centre, Grace Help Centre, AMCARE Hannan House, Re-Bafenyi Shelter and Carrol Shaw Shelter.

During the hand over ceremony, Ms. Zhuldyz Akisheva, UNODC Regional Representative, reaffirmed UNODCs support and commitment to working with both government and civil society in addressing Trafficking in Persons and in protecting victims.

The Honorable Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Hon. John Jeffery noted the gravity of Trafficking in persons but also highlighted the work that the Government of South African is undertaking, to curb the crime and specifically, under his docket. Hon. Jeffery’s observed that from the data received and further evidenced from victims rescued, females are most likely to be trafficked. Females contribute to 90% and above of suspected and confirmed victims. He further spoke of compounded challenges, where, in many sex trafficking cases, the victims have substance abuse disorders, very often as a result of the actions of the trafficker and thanked civil society for playing a key role in protecting victims in South Africa.

Whilst Mr. Bernard Rey lauded the work that civil society organizations are undertaking in caring of persons who have been through traumatic experiences. He noted that it was important that the victims of these heinous crimes of Trafficking in Persons do not lose their voices and thanked the organizations for assisting the victims regain their voices.


“Many practitioners argue we should move away from highlight that these people are not passive and disempowered but are strong and empowered. In the same vein, I want to end by adapting the theme of this year’s World Day Against Human Trafficking and say “Survivors Voices lead the way”

Mr. Bernard Rey

Head of Development Cooperation

EU Delegation to South Africa.


The Southern Africa Migration Management (SAMM, 2020-2023) project is a model of a ONE-UN approach collaborative effort between 4 UN development and humanitarian agencies: the ILO, the IOM, UNODC and UNHCR, under the European Union Regional Indicative Programme (11th EDF RIP). The overall objective of the SAMM programme is to improve migration management in the Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region