What do you know about Human Trafficking in Uganda?

Investigating the Information Black Hole

The topic of human trafficking has garnered immense debates and has fueled increasing attention in the past few years with many Ugandan youths continuously trafficked to countries like China, India, Malaysia, Thailand, South Africa, Canada and the Middle East with the promise of employment for odd jobs like security guards, house helps, nannies but many end up becoming victims of forced labor and sexual exploitation.


While we have little information on this international trafficking, another form of domestic trafficking continues to take place everyday, right before our eyes. In a report published by the New Vision in 2015, Kampala recorded a surge in the number of able-bodied Karamojong beggars. The Ministry of Gender, Labor, and Social Development (MGLSD) back in 1993 found that there were 4,000 street children in Uganda. The problem particularly fueled by the influx of Karamojong families; the current estimates put their numbers at a mind-boggling 10,000.
Majority of these Karamojong that end up on the streets of Kampala as beggars reportedly came to the city in search of a “good life” as most of them were sent to Kampala by their families to find odd jobs to help support their relatives back home. However, the proverbial jobs never come their way and they end up on the streets as beggars. Some women in Karamoja hire out their children to Kampala-bound colleagues to be used as street beggars at a fee.
What exactly IS human trafficking?
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime describes human trafficking as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.
Lots of jargon.
Simply put, human trafficking is the illegal transportation of people from one country or area to another, usually for the purposes of forced labour or commercial sexual exploitation. So for example, if you’re offered a job as waitress at a up-and-coming restaurant in Dubai for $500/month but when you get there, they force you to work at a home for no salary under a hostage situation.
According to the US Department of State 2017 Trafficking in persons report for Uganda, the Government of Uganda does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, the country IS making significant efforts to do so. The government has over the times demonstrated increasing efforts by investigating, prosecuting, and achieving convictions in more cases than in the previous reporting period.
In addition to work done by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, a few other initiatives to control and provide aftercare support to human trafficking victims have emerged in Uganda. Willow international, aims to prevent human trafficking in Uganda and empower survivors to not only be free from slavery, but to heal from trauma and live full, healthy lives. Friends of Orphans was founded and is administered by former child soldiers, orphans and abductees from the Pader district. All of whom were and continue to be affected by the war in Northern Uganda. They aim to contribute to the empowerment, rehabilitation and reintegration of former child soldiers, abductees, child mothers, orphans, and to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS.
How can technology curb human trafficking?
It is estimated that over 21 million people are trafficked around the world, fueling a $150 billion industry for traffickers. Yet there were only 9,071 convictions for trafficking globally in 2016.
There have been several innovative technological initiatives to help control cases of human trafficking and its prevention around the world. In 2013, Polaris and Thorn partnered with Twilio and Salesforce Foundation to develop the NHTRC SMS-based textline; victims can text the shortcode “BeFree” for a discreet and time-efficient way to access the hotline.
Microsoft’s PhotoDNA, aids in identifying images of children who are sexually exploited online. The PhotoDNA Cloud Service is available free of charge to qualifying organizations, and has made monitoring illicit online ads more manageable for law enforcement. The Spotlight tool was introduced by Thorn: Digital Defenders in Spring 2014. Spotlight is available to law enforcement across the nation and is designed to aggregate data from online commercial sex advertisements. Law enforcement agencies using Spotlight have seen a 43% reduction in their investigation time.
TraffickCam allows regular citizens to help fight trafficking by uploading photos of their hotel room. These photos are used to determine where perpetrators of sex trafficking are committing their crimes.
How can open data support the fight?
POLLICY intends to join this fight to combat human trafficking by developing a platform that can utilize open data to track and reduce incidences of human trafficking in East Africa, as well as provide relevant information to citizens seeking to travel abroad under vague circumstances and for citizens returning home after experiencing trafficking. The pilot platform will include a toll free line that provide information and assistance to users seeking to have more information about human trafficking.
Putting this together, we were intrigued at how difficult it was to find a dedicated source of information on human trafficking in Uganda. It involved piecing together content from multiple sources and even then, some were not quite up to date. There were no resources online available to victims of trafficking and likely no means of acquiring confidential, legal justice. There is a need for the people to take this issue more seriously with increased sensitization, precautions on an individual level and vigilance towards suspicious employment and travel opportunities.
We are interested in learning more about the current landscape and networking with individuals involved in assisting victims pre/post trafficking. Shoot us an email on website: pollicy.org.
Written by Esther Ndagire, Fellow at Pollicy


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