The journey into Cape Town International Airport, to start working as transit
monitors, was a hard and eventful process with many learning opportunities for
everyone involved in pioneering such a project. It was an opportunity to
showcase the reality of human trafficking in South Africa and that Cape Town
International Airport was indeed a vulnerable border post even with intense
levels of security. Our team was well trained-up and super excited with the
amazing opportunity and task ahead.
We started our journey in late 2018 and on entering the international arrivals
area we soon discovered how vulnerable we as a monitoring team were because
we didn!t know where to start or how to fit in that environment. It was an
extremely hostile situation as nobody knew us or what we were doing in that
area of the airport. Being the new kids on the block was a very uncomfortable
place to be in with no friends or anybody to turn to.
In our struggle to find our feet and a base from which to work or monitor from
we were approached by DHA Director who kindly took us under his wings and
together we discussed what and where would be the perfect spot to do our
monitoring. Now that we had a solid base and a very experienced and helpful
guide we set about monitoring flights.
At that time focused mainly on female Thais who according to our intelligence
were being trafficked into South Africa to work in Thai spas but also being used in
sex trafficking within the spa environment. This too was a very difficult task as we
had no previous experience in this specific culture. Fortunately, we were blessed
when one of our colleagues from Gauteng who is a Thai national who lived and
worked in South Africa.
Our colleague came to work in Cape Town for a few months and really helped us
by explaining the culture, which gave us a better understanding of what we
should look out for when interviewing potential Thai victims. And immediately we
started getting successful interceptions and breakthroughs.
This journey however also comes with drama and setbacks as we constantly
learning and adjusting our game plan. We started experiencing hostilities from
some of the immigration officials who felt that our presence there was interfering
with their jobs and we were confronted by some of the shop stewards, called into
one of their meetings to explain who we were and what exactly we doing there.
I think it was a good platform for us to let everyone know who we were as we
needed the immigration official working with us as opposed to working against
us. This had a positive spin as we now became one force and we really needed to
have a good relationship with the Department of Home Affairs at the airport.
With the workplace sorted and the team’s confidence growing daily we started
noticing that we could potentially be dealing with different types of trafficking at
Cape Town International Airport.
We also realized that our job affects so many different departments within the
airport that we have to start building relationships with everyone involved to
make the process of intercepting and sending potential victims of trafficking back
to the countries possible. We set out to build relationships with everyone from
the toilet cleaners to the airline managers, South African Police Services, Airports
Company South Africa staff members, and whoever worked and dealt with people
getting on and off planes at Cape Town International Airport.
If we get this right we could teach more people at the airport to see what we saw
as monitors and it would help make the airport much safer. Our work at the
airport was being noticed by other security departments and after a few months
we had everybody!s attention even some of the big time mafias and syndicates in
the country who wanted to know “who is stopping our girls from coming into the
country “ which was a bit scary I must admit.
We were invited to top structure security meetings at the airport and that was an
amazing platform to be a part of. Human trafficking was beginning to be
recognized and dealt with at CTIA and we were primarily responsible for the
statistics, judging by the number of cases we were dealing with and the number
of victims we were rescuing and returning to their respective countries.
We were now dealing with labour trafficking, sex trafficking, child trafficking and
even being called out by airlines to interview people they thought were
suspicious and potential victims or even traffickers. By now we had almost 100
cases at CTIA and some of our cases were followed up by DPCI (Hawks ) and crime
intelligence agencies, which was a big boost to our efforts at Cape Town Airport.
Unfortunately the organization, we were employed by pulled the funds needed to
finance our operations and the team had to leave the very vulnerable airport. In
conclusion, I would love to state that CTIA is very, very vulnerable without the
expertise and people to either continually tackle the trafficking problem or the
people to train all companies or organization and agencies who work under ACSA
by Pierre Haupt