Proposed law will enable compensation for victims of trafficking in Mozambique

Maputo (Mozambique), 9 January 2023 – With a population of about 33 million, Mozambique is a country of origin, transit and destination for victims of human trafficking, who are often part of wider mixed migration flows.

Tete province, located on the border with Malawi, is a key transit area of the ‘Southern Route’ used by irregular migrants trying to reach South Africa from the Horn of Africa and beyond. This route is believed to be targeted by human traffickers seeking to recruit or transfer victims of different nationalities. Mozambican victims, on the other hand, are often detected in Eswatini, with which Mozambique shares a 430-kilometre border.

The desire for better lives and financial stability often makes them vulnerable to manipulation by traffickers. “People in Mozambique believe that South Africa is the Eldorado,” said Amabelia Chuquela, Assistant Attorney-General in Mozambique and coordinator of the National Reference Group on Trafficking in Persons.

Article 6 of the United Nations Trafficking in Persons Protocol obligates state parties to ensure their legal systems offer trafficking victims the possibility of obtaining compensation. This could take the form of restitution provisions, state-supported compensation funds, or civil remedies enabling victims to initiate legal action against offenders in order to obtain damages.

Mozambique has become the latest country seeking to adopt a compensation fund into national legislation, in line with the protocol. Mozambique’s proposed compensation mechanism, according to Ms. Chuquela, draws on the experiences of other countries including Egypt that provide an emolument to enable victims to re-establish their lives.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)’s Zoi Sakelliadou stated, “It is imperative that states put in place ways that enable victims to be compensated in accessible and meaningful ways for the grave harms they have suffered and opportunities they have lost as a result of their ordeal, with effective access to remedies such as compensation funds.” Fortunately, she said, civil society groups around the world are stepping forward to support victims of trafficking to access compensation, and research into remedies is growing.

In Mozambique the proposal gained ground thanks to a case that placed human trafficking high on the government’s agenda, leading to a review of the 2008 trafficking in persons legislation. This legislation was drafted two years after, with support from UNODC, Mozambique ratified both the Trafficking in Persons Protocol and the Migrant Smuggling Protocol.

The case involved the trafficking for sexual exploitation of three Mozambican women, who were promised the opportunity to study and to work in a hair salon in South Africa. Eventually, cooperation between the authorities in Mozambique and South Africa led to the perpetrators being convicted of trafficking for practices similar to slavery and forced labour.

Ms. Chuquela emphasized the complexity inherent in identifying the crime of trafficking in persons, as well as its victims: “Every day the perpetrators change their modus operandi”. This is compounded by a lack of adequate resources in criminal justice institutions to effectively combat human trafficking and migrant smuggling.

Mozambique’s internal dynamics also pose a challenge. For example, instability in the north of the country has led to claims of citizens being coerced into joining terrorist groups. Traffickers are also alleged to have targeted internally displaced persons. In the same region, a link is often made between trafficking and the removal of organs. In addition, recent cyclones on the Mozambique coast displaced thousands, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation.

UNODC has supported the government’s legislative reforms, as well as providing capacity building, data collection and analysis. Leveraging UNODC’s regional networks, the Office helped enhance the capabilities of law enforcement officers to implement intelligence-driven operations targeting transnational syndicates, especially in Tete province.

In collaboration with the National Reference Group, UNODC is giving multi-disciplinary training to criminal justice practitioners, along with developing a training manual, so that justice practitioners can better investigate and adjudicate cases of trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling. The Reference Group has presented a draft national anti-trafficking action plan (2022-2027) to the government for approval. Hope is high that the plan will strengthen efforts to deal with both trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling.

In parallel, UNODC has supported cooperation between Mozambique and Eswatini. “Due to regular bilateral meetings, cooperation in the cross-border anti-trafficking in persons and anti-smuggling of migrants initiatives is at an advanced stage,” said Jeptum Bargoria, UNODC’s coordinator of the European Union-funded Southern Africa Migration Management project.

Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime