What role can labour inspectors play in the fight against human trafficking?


TIP Training for labour inspectors in South AfricaDurban, South Africa, 7 March 2018 - In South Africa, statistics on trafficking in persons (TIP) show that although TIP for sexual exploitation still is the main form of exploitation, TIP for forced labour is also being detected more and more. In order to prevent but also to better identify and assist victims of these crimes, the Global Action against Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants ( GLO.ACT) facilitated a three-day workshop on TIP from 27 February to 1 March 2018 for labour inspectors. In South Africa, labour inspectors observe and monitor compliance with national law in enterprises in different economic sectors. They can thus play a key role in gathering and reporting data related to forced labour and trafficking.

The decision to engage with labour inspectors was supported by the positive outcome of a similar workshop held under the framework of GLO.ACT in Colombia in 2017.

The main objectives of the workshop in South Africa were:

  • To build the capacity of labour inspectors at provincial and national level on identifying and investigating TIP cases and on the associated referral mechanisms;
  • To build the capacity of the National Bargaining Council for the Clothing and Manufacturing Industry on the protection aspects with regards to TIP victims;
  • To build capacity of Southern African Clothing & Textile Workers Union officials to be able to identify suspected TIP cases and understand the correct referral mechanisms;
  • To facilitate discussion on TIP and the smuggling of migrants (SOM) and challenges hindering the identification of potential TIP victims during labour inspections.

TIP Training for labour inspectors in South AfricaOpening the workshop, Advocate Kombiza Mbakaza, Deputy Director, Public Prosecutions in KwaZulu Natal, said that "a recent matter involving a factory in the Newcastle area of KwaZulu Natal, where a Lesotho and a Swazi national were trafficked into South Africa and exploited, shows us that we have only touched the tip of an iceberg and that we need to focus far more intensely on cases of trafficking for labour exploitation".  He went on to say, "These cases remind us of the important role labour inspectors who visit factories and farms play in identifying potential victims. Victims are most often women and children, who go missing from our communities on a daily basis never to be seen again".

While Mr. Sicelo Nduna, General Secretary, National Bargaining Council for the Clothing Manufacturing Industry in South Africa said, "When carrying out our duties as labour inspectors, we come across many suspicious cases of trafficking in persons. However, we are not sure whether we are right with our suspicions, and we do not even know what to do when we suspect somebody has been trafficked and is being exploited."  He went on to say that "we hope the trafficking in persons training for labour inspectors will help us better identify potential TIP cases and help us follow the correct referral mechanisms once such cases have been identified".

TIP Training for labour inspectors in South AfricaOne of the highlights of the workshop was a presentation given by Ms. Grizelda Grootboom, a TIP survivor and advocate. During her poignant speech she said, "Labour inspectors have the knowledge of the injustice of labour exploitation by employers." She went on to say that "it is a matter of urgency to protect and assist TIP victims, as well as to see justice served".

Over the three days, participants worked on the following topics:

  • The Prevention and Combatting in Trafficking in Persons Act 7 of 2013
  • Social context in relation to TIP
  • Definition of "trafficking in persons" and "smuggling of migrants"
  • Victim identification
  • Child trafficking
  • South African TIP cases
  • Indicators of trafficking in persons
  • Control methods in trafficking in persons
  • Protection and assistance to victims of trafficking in persons
  • TIP and SOM case studies
  • Outlining every step of the criminal justice system that needs to be involved in a TIP case

TIP Training for labour inspectors in South AfricaThe workshop was highly interactive in nature and incorporated many best teaching practices, such as working through several real TIP and SOM case studies in small group settings. Speaking about the content of the workshop and how this can be used in his work, Mr. Jonas Mahlatsane, Labour Inspector, Provincial Department of Labour said, "The content of the workshop has been spot on. I really liked the case studies and how I was able to determine the case of labour exploitation". He also said, "As I embark on my daily responsibilities as a labour inspector in factories, I will surely look out for potential TIP cases, especially on labour exploitation so that cases can be detected and properly referred through the mechanisms that we were taught".

Another highlight of the workshop was a presentation given by Mr. Charles Luhanga, co-author of the Wamama Chronicles, a book that tells stories of several women whom traffickers and smugglers have subjected to various forms of abuse while they were leaving Malawi for a better life in South Africa. The book is a stark reminder of the horrors trafficking victims and smuggled migrants experience at the hand of criminals. During his presentation he said, "At Fula Africa we believe that corruption, chronic poverty and poor governance will likely continue to drive TIP as people are looking for a better life in South Africa." 

Participants included the National Prosecuting Authority (KwaZulu Natal Province), the Provincial Department of Labour, Bargaining Council Designated Agents, the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and GLO.ACT project implementing partners.

TIP Training for labour inspectors in South Africa

The Global Action to Prevent and Address Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants (GLO.ACT) is a four-year (2015-2019), €11 million joint initiative by the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The project is being implemented in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). GLO.ACT aims to provide assistance to governmental authorities and civil society organizations across 13 strategically selected countries: Belarus, Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, Kyrgyz Republic, Lao PDR, Mali, Morocco, Nepal, Niger, Pakistan, South Africa, Ukraine.  GLO.ACT works with the 13 countries to plan and implement strategic national counter-trafficking and counter smuggling efforts through a prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnerships approach. It supports the development of more effective responses to trafficking and smuggling, including providing assistance to victims of trafficking and vulnerable migrants through the strengthening of identification, referral, and direct support mechanisms.


For more information, please contact:

Banele Kunene, National Project Officer




Email: glo.act@un.org

Twitter:  @glo_act