Gov’t pledges to solidify efforts to combat human trafficking

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The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Lt Gen Joseph Musanyufu has expressed the government’s commitment to protecting all Ugandans against human trafficking.

Musanyufu made the remarks on Sunday during the commemoration of World International Day Against Trafficking in Persons (TIP).

The celebrations held at Kabira Country Club began with a solidarity walk from the National Museum, intended to create awareness about human trafficking.

This year’s campaigns for the World Day Against Trafficking are being conducted under the theme, “Reach Every Victim of Trafficking, Leave No One Behind.”

Speaking at the event, Musanyufu, who represented the Minister of Internal Affairs, Maj Gen Kahinda Otafiire, said the ministry is undertaking several efforts to fight TIP, particularly through sensitisation campaigns that aim at creating awareness about the vice.

“It is our duty as the ministry to ensure that we protect every citizen against such vices, and as our mandate directs us, we are required to guarantee Uganda’s internal security,” he said.

Musanyufu acknowledged that Uganda continues to be a destination and source for human trafficking, noting that this is a clear indication that the challenge is not only internal but cuts across borders.

However, he noted that through a number of laws and regulations, the government has been able to register success in the fight against human trafficking. He said that what remains is for law enforcement officers to do their work and implement them.

“Increased implementation of the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act has led to significant positive strides; the police, prosecutors, government ministries, departments, and civil society organisations have all worked together to ensure that we fight this and have achievements and gains. So, these coupled with awareness campaigns, and training conducted especially for police officers and investigators and prosecutors are now more familiar on how to handle the cases involving human trafficking.“ Musanyufu said.

According to CP Julius Twinomujuni, the national coordinator in the Coordination Office for the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons (COPTIP) at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, in 2022, there were 1,200 reported cases of trafficking, an increase from 500 registered the previous year.

Of the cases, 55.7% are adults while 44.3% are children, with domestic trafficking accounting for 89.3% of all instances, while international trafficking accounts for 10.7%.

Racheal Bikhole, the assistant Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), said that her office has taken positive strides in prosecuting human trafficking cases.

She noted that in 2022, the office registered 73 convictions compared to 30 in the previous year.

Bikhole highlighted that findings have indicated that TIP is financing acts of terrorism in the country and also in the region and that it is the moral reason the DPP is handling the crime seriously.

She revealed that the office of the DPP, they are ensuring that the traffickers are brought to account and punished for their crimes to ensure that the suffering of survivors is not only redressed but also to stop the continuous operations of traffickers.

“The office of the DPP is committed to pursuing justice for survivors and accountability for traffickers. It is important to reach and rescue every victim of exploitation, but if the traffickers remain unpunished, they will find new victims to exploit.” Bikhole said.

Savage Sanusi, the chief of mission, International Organization for Migration (IOM) Uganda, observed that the number of human trafficking victims remains high, most of whom remain unsupported.

He called upon government arms, civil society, and all stakeholders to step up efforts in preventing TIP, as well as identifying and supporting victims. This, he said can be through creating awareness and reinforcing global commitments to eliminate TIP.

He further stressed that gaps in criminal justice response particularly in developing countries, continue to slow down the fight against human trafficking and exploitation.

“In fact, nearly 41% of victims who managed to escape their ordeal reached out to authorities on their own initiative, another sign that anti-trafficking responses are falling short,” Sanusi said.

The commemoration included the launch of the TIP database by IOM and the Government of Uganda. 15 computers were given to Uganda by IOM for 15 districts where police record officers will be trained on the use and management of the TIP database whose purpose is to collect and record all tip-reported information in real-time which is sent to the center at the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ COPTIP office for management.

This will be the main government database in which all information from the other databases by all other stakeholders will be fed for comprehensive reports and policy direction.

The ceremony was supported by the Better Migration Management (BMM) Programme, funded by European Union International Partnership and the German Embassy in Uganda.

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