South African life imprisonment for child trafficker

Our thanks to Advocate Beatri Kruger who works in at the Free State University in South Africa for the following update on South Africa where the legislature is developing its response to Human Trafficking –  she informs us about the following news released yesterday.

Human trafficker Adina dos Santos was sentenced to life imprisonment at the Pretoria Regional Court on the 20th July 2011. Dos Santos was found guilty of trafficking three girls from Mozambique who had been forced into prostitution and worked in South Africa. Dos Santos was in addition to life imprisonment, also given a one-year sentence for living off the money she had made from the girls.

This is very significant case. The giving of a life-sentence now clearly sends the message that human trafficking is categorised among the most serious of crimes in South Africa and signals clearly that those who traffick in human beings can no longer get away with impunity, or light sentencing in South Africa.

Dos Santos was convicted of sex trafficking under the terms of the Sexual Offences Amendment Act 32 of 2007.  South Africa is currently reviewing its legislation on human trafficking and its comprehensive legislation regarding both child and adult trafficking has still not passed through the legislature. However there is interim legislation in place criminalising

-all forms of child trafficking and

-sex trafficking of adults

which are now in force on which courts are reaching their judgements, and judges sentencing on the strength of them.

In May two Chinese women who allegedly ran a brothel in Goodwood, South Africa were accussed of  luring young women from China to South Africa. They were charged with keeping a brothel and human trafficking, but because the charges involve sexual offences, they have not yet been named until they plead.  They were set bail conditions of R5000  – less than £500 each.

The women were accused of luring young Chinese women to South Africa with false promises of jobs that paid monthly salaries of up to R50,000 (£4,481). Chinese women are some of the most at risk women and girls in the world, in the current global movement of women for sex, domesticated servitude and trafficked labour.

The dos Santos judgement,  is just one part of the long haul in getting a grip internationally on the globally realised crime of human trafficking – but an important one.  As IOM acting chief of mission in South Africa Erick Ventura noted –
‘human traffickers in South Africa have in the past been rarely taken to court and only charged with minor offences such as “keeping a brothel” when they have been brought for prosecution.’

Without appropriate – punishment fits the crime judgements – those who benefit from as much as £100,000 per woman/minor exploited within trafficking for sexual exploitation – will continue to ply their illicit merchandising.  Other dimensions of the trade need to be addressed as well. Importantly, dos Santos would have made no money whatsoever if there had been no clients to purchase the three young Mozambicans whom she had imported and forced into prostitution. And thereby hangs a longer and more critical cultural conversation for most countries in the world to engage with.

If you have news on recent judgements or decisions occurring in your context on which you would like us to comment or feature in the CCARHT blog drop us a line on update@ccarht.org

Major legal aid provider hit by slow Government payments.

On the 15th June 2010 – yesterday the Trustees of Refugee and Migrant Justice (RMJ)  signed papers to place the charity into administration as a result of a cash flow problem created by late payment of legal aid by the Legal Services Commission.  The administrators, BDO, will this afternoon on the 16th June 2010 assume responsible for managing the business.

The failure of the recent Conservative Liberal pact  vaunting Big Society and the critical role of Third Sector champions to provide public value for money in this area of legal service provision for our most vulnerable citizens is quite extraordinary.  The shortfall is around £1.8 million of back-dated payments. The savings resulting in letting the RMJ go to the wall will when the chips are counted in come to less than zero. Bad debt from the government leading to the collapse of a beacon organisation for enabling efficient and cost effective legal provisioning.

RMJ has currently legal representation of more than 10,000 vulnerable asylum seekers and victims of trafficking on its books, including nearly 900 separated children, whom are now at risk. RMJ also represents over 10 per cent of those currently in detention and many foreign national prisoners.

Paul Gray the chair of the RMJ said ‘This situation is caused by late payment of legal aid by up to two years, not inefficiency or even lack of income: RMJ staff have performed a minor miracle in cutting costs to live with a fall in income per client of over 40%.  Late payment has an unequal impact on charities because they cannot get bank loans to finance the cash gap.’

With a number of our Affiliates, and with our Director having worked in both the provisioning of welfare, advice, and expert witness support of those undergoing Asylum claims, with a number of these frequently developing into fully evidenced trafficking network, related survivor claims CCARHT is extraordinarily disturbed by this potential erasure of a highly respected and fully functioning aspect of victim protection.

If RMJ is allowed to ‘go under’ as it looks as though it might, despite a high profile campaign including the voices of the Archbishop of Canterbury and Ken Loach amongst others, this will represent an appalling wastage in third sector capacity triggered by appalling delays in the realisation of accounts by those administering Legal Aid.

RMJ provides a critical safety net of expert advice,  support and professional legal advocacy, essential at a point where people at their most vulnerable can find themselves without the means to articulate appropriately their entitlement under UN and British law to claim sanctuary and justice in the UK.

A recent Freedom of Information request submitted to the Legal Services Commission revealed around 29% of asylum providers, were doing the minimum possible to advance their clients’ cases, but making massive profits. This has gone unchecked whilst quality representatives such as RMJ being fully briefed by their clients to complete cases and see justice done are being starved of cash. Some payments to the RMJ have been delayed by up to 2 years! No business can run like this, and certainly professional legal services which on legal aid are cut pretty close to the bone and are not the Fat Cat bonus laden arenas which many place all legal work within, has not a hope of surviving in straightened times.

To make your views known send a shout EDM 91 on the following link.

http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=41114

drop onto our FB website Cambridge Centre for Applied Research in Human Trafficking or tweet RMJUK your support.