Human smuggling - Sudan has long been a hub for individuals from the Horn of Africa on their way to North Africa, Europe, and beyond
, and this has only increased in recent years. In particular, eastern Sudan often serves as a passage for migrants from Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia who seek to reach Europe and/or Israel. Using international smuggling networks to travel abroad presents tremendous risks, however
During 2014, Sudan passed its Anti-Trafficking Act (US DOS 2014, 358–359). It also undertook a number of other national efforts, including (among other things) (i) ending “its public denial of the existence of human trafficking in Sudan,” instead acknowledging the breadth of the problem through press statements, conferences, and international efforts; (ii) adopting a joint strategy against human smuggling and trafficking with UNHCR and IOM in 2013; (iii) initiating an anti-trafficking section in the Ministry of Labour’s Secretariat of Sudanese.
Some of the positive steps taken included the following:
- Sudan signed the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) of 2000 (though not yet ratified).
- Sudan hosted in 2005 the UN Conference for Transitional Organized Crimes (UNTOC, 2000) that covered human trafficking;
- Kassala State issued the first anti-trafficking law in the country, Kassala State AntiHuman Trafficking and Smuggling Law (2010), though it was not enacted because it was not approved by the Federal Government;
- Gedarif state’s enactment of a law against illegal immigration and human trafficking in 2013;
- Sudan government decided in September 2013 issuing work permits to approximately 30,000 refugees (mostly Eritreans) in Kassala state (compared to just 180 permits in
2012), which reduces the refugees’ vulnerability to exploitation, forced labor, and trafficking;
- The SAF's child protection unit in 2013 conducted training for military personnel and started demobilizing child soldiers from its forces, the PDFs.
GOS in December 2013 signed the Joint Strategy with UNHCR and IOM to address human trafficking, kidnapping, and the smuggling of persons in Sudan:
- GoS initiated in 2013-2014 prosecutions in over 25 suspected human trafficking crimes in Khartoum and Kassala states, and 28 convictions were made;
- GoS established in 2013 the “Rapid Emergency Taskforce and Response Unit” to deal with trafficking crimes in eastern Sudan;
- GoS established a national committee to combat child trafficking and illegal immigration and initiated an anti-trafficking section within the Sudanese Working Abroad Secretariat (SWAS) (Ministry of Labor) to repatriate abused workers from the Middle East, mainly female domestic workers and boys used as hajan “camel racing” riders;
- For the first time Criminal Investigative Division provided law enforcement information for inclusion in the US State Department TIP report, noting that trafficking-related arrests
since 2011 had resulted in 70 convictions: and
- The government ceased its public denial of the existence of human trafficking in Sudan and acknowledged the scope and extent of the country's human trafficking problem through press statements, media outreach, conferences, and cooperative efforts with foreign diplomatic missions and international organizations and allowing the government controlled print media to publish articles on human trafficking
“Human trafficking” (also called “trafficking in persons”) is a hotly contested term because of its potentially wide scope.
The UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children of 2000 (Anti-Trafficking Protocol) provides the most comprehensive definition.
Article 3 defines “trafficking in persons” as follows:
(a) “Trafficking in persons” shall mean 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. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or
services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs;
(b) The consent of a victim of trafficking in persons to the intended exploitation set forth in subparagraph (a) of this article shall be irrelevant where any of the means set forth in subparagraph (a) have been used.
Thus Palermo Protocol definition clearly sets the three elements of the trafficking crime, which differentiate it from other acts, such as smuggling and irregular migration. First, the trafficking act must involve recruitment, transport, transfer, harbour, or receipt of a victim. Generally, recruitment of potential victims is carried out using mechanisms to trick individuals and obtain their consent to join a trafficking route (often without their realising they are about to be trafficked). For example, traffickers may make false promises about opportunities for them at the end of their journey or provide misinformation about the journey’s costs or other requirements.
Victims themselves may push to unwittingly join a trafficking route out of desperation to migrate
to another locale.
The actual transportation of a trafficking victim can occur within a country or across borders. In the legal sense, it includes facilitating and arranging the movement of the individual victims, including producing fake travel documents or providing food, shelter, or other services. At the transportation stage, corrupt government officials (such as immigration officials, border guards, and other security personnel) usually play an important role in helping traffickers.
Second, the act of trafficking act must be undertaken by means of the threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, deception, fraud, the abuse of power, the abuse of a position of vulnerability, or the gift or receipt of payments or benefits to win the potential victim’s consent.
When trafficking involves a child, there is no need to show an illegal means for it to be considered a crime (Anti-Trafficking Protocol, article 3/c).
The third element, exploitation of the victim, is the main purpose of the trafficking process. Traffickers employ numerous forms of exploitation, all generating huge profits and/or other benefits. Victims may be engaged in prostitution, domestic servitude, or forced labour. They may
have their organs removed (usually resulting in death) and sold on the black market. Or their families may be extorted through demands for enormous ransom payments. Ultimately, victims are denied their value as human beings and treated as property that is useful only for the
Trafficking can affect women, men, and children of any nationality. The international legal framework for countering this problem has been criticised as weak, especially when it comes to combating trafficking of persons to the Sinai Peninsula (which is where many victims of trafficking in Sudan end up).
“Human smuggling” is “the facilitation, transportation, attempted transportation or illegal entry of a person(s) across an international border, in violation of one or more countries’ laws, either clandestinely or through deception, such as the use of fraudulent documents” (US DOS 2006b,
2). The term includes not only “the importation of people into a country via the deliberate evasion of immigration laws,” but also “the unlawful transportation and harboring of aliens already in a country illegally” (US ICE 2017). The UN Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air (Anti-Smuggling Protocol), which entered into force 28 January 2004, defines “smuggling of migrants” (a term used interchangeably with “human smuggling”) as “the procurement, in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit, of the illegal entry of a person into a State Party of which the person is not a national or a permanent resident”
Unlike human trafficking, human smuggling is based upon consent between the smuggled person and the smuggler, a contractual agreement that typically terminates upon arrival at the destination. People seek to be smuggled for both “pull” factors, such as the hope of employment, economic opportunity, and a better quality of life, and “push” factors, such as to escape injustice, persecution, violence, conflict, poverty, and/or economic hardship in their home countries.
Smuggling operations are complex, involving networks of many major and minor players spreading over large geographical areas and different countries. Smuggled individuals are often exposed to risks such as threats, abuse, exploitation, torture, and sometimes death, and human smuggling has significant economic, social, and legal effects on the receiving society.
Differentiating human smuggling and human trafficking
Technically, the elements of consent, exploitation, and source of profit constitute the basis for distinction between smuggling and trafficking. First, a smuggler-customer relationship is based on an agreement, while a trafficker-victim relationship is based on coercion, deception, or abuse
by the trafficker(s). Second, a customer’s interaction with a smuggler usually terminates upon payment and arrival at destination, while a trafficking victim is often involved in a cycle of continued abuse and exploitation. Third, profits from smuggling operations are derived from the transportation and facilitation of the customer’s illegal entry or stay in another country, but profits from trafficking are derived mainly from exploitation of the victim.
Legally, the Palermo Protocols (including both the Anti-Smuggling and Anti-Trafficking Protocols) focus on the first of these elements (consent versus coercion) in framing the difference between smuggling and trafficking. For example, the Anti-Trafficking Protocol expressly addresses the need to protect trafficked persons as victims of a criminal act (arts. 2, 6–8; at UNODC 2004, 41–45), while the Anti-Smuggling Protocol tends to view smuggled migrants as
“objects” of a process.
Regarding the obligations of the receiving country, article 6.3 of the Anti-Trafficking Protocol requires state parties to consider “implementing measures to provide for the physical, psychological, and social recovery of victims of trafficking in persons,” such as housing, counselling, medical and psychological assistance, material aid, and opportunities for employment, education, and training (at UNODC 2004, 44). Article 7.1 requires states to consider adopting legislation to enable trafficking victims to remain in their territory in appropriate cases, whether temporarily or permanently (ibid.).
By contrast, the Anti-Smuggling Protocol contains rather minimal reference to the protection needs of smuggled persons. For example, article 9.1/(a) requires state parties to “[e]nsure the safety and human treatment of persons on board,” when it takes action against vessels engaged in
human smuggling at sea . Article 16 requires state parties to “afford appropriate assistance to migrants whose lives or safety are endangered by reason of being smuggled and to take into account the special needs of women and children”.