Border closures and the heightened scrutiny at exit points has led to a reduction in human trafficking cases in the country, reports indicate.
Human trafficking cases in the country have been increasing in the last few years, with the country recording 98 cases in 2019 from 49 in 2018, but this fell to 33 cases in 2020.
As the pandemic decimated livelihoods and increased household poverty, observers expected an increase in the number of people who will fall prey to human trafficking to increase with promise of jobs abroad.
Although this doesn’t rule out resurgence of cases after the pandemic as traffickers may exploit porous borders and laxity in controls at immigration department “We have seen a 37.7 percent decrease in human trafficking cases in 2020 largely because borders are closed due to Coronavirus, the increase in investigations and interceptions, awareness raising has also contributed to this decline” said Murangira Thierry, the acting Rwanda Investigations Bureau spokesperson.
He said the crimes has also reduced because members of public and authorities are aware of traps traffickers use to trap victims. Many of those who fall victim are young people aged between 18 and 30, who are often promised lucrative jobs abroad and are lured into these traps using close friends, acquaintances or unsuspecting relatives.
A research conducted by Never Again Rwanda indicates that Rwanda is a largely a transit country, and to a lesser extent a country of origin. And that the majority of intercepted victims in the past few years have been female at 77.67 percent and the most common forms of human trafficking in the country have been identified to be labour and sex trafficking.
The report further revealed that Saudi Arabia is the most frequent destination at 38.55 percent, followed closely by Uganda at 37.35 percent and Kenya at 7.23 percent.
Rwanda is still classified as Tier 2 status according to the US Trafficking in Persons Report for 2020, which means that Rwanda has still not fully complied with the minimum standards to reduce trafficking, though it has implemented positive efforts.
However, the government has made significant achievements in combatting trafficking in the country; including passing a new law in 2018, training government officers and conducting awareness raising events.
The report highlighted some key gaps, among them scarce resources, inadequate victim testimonies and a lack of cooperation mechanisms with other countries.
It was also revealed that service providers reported challenges related to identification, and that assistance to victims is often short term, yet male victims are often neglected.
“The government of Rwanda does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.
The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period” These efforts included identifying more victims, developing a national referral mechanism, drafting and dispersing a directory of service providers for victims, and increasing national awareness campaigns.
“However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas, it investigated fewer trafficking crimes and prosecuted and convicted fewer traffickers compared to the previous year”
The report indicated that Rwanda did not convict any traffickers for sex trafficking, despite the crime’s presence in the country, and that it also did not operate long-term care facilities for referred victims.
“The government detained thousands of potential victims in district transit centres without conducting adequate screening or referring them to proper care and assistance” the report read in part.