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Lesotho makes strides in fight against human trafficking

Business

Seabata Mahao

Lesotho has been listed among countries that have upgraded frown Tier 2 Watch list to Tier 2 of the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report which was released on July 19 this year.

The 22nd report which evaluates 188 countries and apportions a score in one of the four categories based on the respective country’s efforts to combat trafficking was released by the Secretary of State of the United States of America, Antony Blinken

Tier 1 is the best ranking, while Tier 3 is the worst. There are two middle ranks: Tier 2 and Tier 2 Watch List. Countries placed in Tier 3 can be penalized with sanctions and limited access to the United States and international foreign assistance.

The report indicated that the government of Lesotho showed efforts which include, identifying more trafficking victims, increasing investigations and prosecutions.

It lauded Lesotho for launching its national action plan and allocated funding for implementation. It said Lesotho has also finalised and implemented guidelines for victim identification and referral to care.

“The government of Lesotho has increased its anti-trafficking training awareness-raising efforts for law enforcement, diplomats, and the public”.

Despite the upgrade, the report however noted that Lesotho did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas and several investigations with prosecutions from the previous reporting period, including cases of alleged official complicity which are still pending.

“Lesotho did not amend existing laws that created jurisdictional issues that prevent magistrate courts from issuing the maximum penalty for trafficking crimes,” reads the report, which also adds that the government continued to rely on one NGO to provide all services to trafficking victims in the country with nascent government funding, and shelter options which still remains limited.

The report comes shortly after Lesotho’s upgrade from Tier 2 Watch list which it has been on since 2021 after moving from Tier 3 in late 2020 to early 2021.

The Government of Lesotho through the Ministry of Home Affairs has been working tirelessly to upgrade Lesotho’s standard to where it is today through various initiatives which the ministry embarked on.

The ministry noted that Lesotho does not fully meet the minimum standards for elimination of Trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.

It also highlights that, Lesotho demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting periods, considering the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity.

“This is a tremendous achievement as Lesotho was at Tier 3 in 2020 and Tier 2 Watch List in 2021,” the Ministry’s report said.

Meanwhile, United States of America’s Ambassador to Lesotho, Maria Brewer said an estimated 25 million people around the world are subjected to human trafficking. She said each trafficked person is exploited differently through labour services or sex.

“Through force, fraud and coercion, traffickers violate the most basic rights of people to be free. I want to commend the government of Lesotho for its progress in making significant efforts to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but I also note much hard work remains ahead,” Brewer said.

She added that, the U.S Embassy will continue to work closely with officials across the government of Lesotho as well as civilian societies to ensure that Lesotho continues to make progress in ending modern-day slavery.

TIP reports are officiated by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, as amended which requires for the Secretary of State to submit an annual report to Congress. Furthermore, the goal of this report is to stimulate action and create partnerships around the world in the fight against TIP.

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