About Transit Monitoring
Q: What is an intercept?
A: Our transit monitoring strategy focuses on identifying and assisting victims of trafficking while they are being transported and before they reach the destination where they will be exploited. We “intercept” someone when we have good reason to believe that they are in the process of being trafficked or at high risk of being trafficked. We then intervene to educate the person about the dangers of trafficking, to raise awareness about ways that they can safely seek employment abroad, and to help them to return home.
Q: What do you look for when making a determination that someone is being trafficked?
A: We have developed a “Questioning Protocol” that includes a list of visual red flags we look for to identify a potential victim as well as a line of questioning designed to determine if trafficking is taking place. Each staff member is trained to identify, question, and assist potential victims. Some red flags include:
- A group of people traveling together who appear to be strangers.
- Someone who appears to be drugged or confused.
- Someone traveling overseas for work, but the employer’s phone number is fake or the promised salary is unrealistically high.
- Someone traveling overseas who appears too impoverished to afford an international flight and whose travel was paid for by someone else.
- Someone who has been offered a job that’s “too good to be true.”
Q: How do potential victims react when they are told they are possibly being trafficked?
A: They often express disbelief at first and do not want to believe that it is happening to them, but after some education and time spent in conversation with our staff, they often gain an understanding of the risks involved and, in the end, are very thankful for our work.
Q: Where do the intercepted victims go after they are intercepted?
A: Most often, they are able to go home after being intercepted. Because we intervene before potential exploitation occurs, they are generally not in need of extensive counseling or care but simply a thorough understanding and awareness about human trafficking and safe migration. We coordinate for most potential victims to head home the very same day. At times, they will stay at a shelter if they are not able to return home or if, based on our home situation assessment, it is not safe to send them back home. In those rare cases, we partner with a longer-term aftercare organization.
Q: How do you know a potential victim is not going to be trafficked again?
A: We educate potential victims about the dangers of trafficking and very seldom intercept the same person twice.
Q: How do you know a potential victim is not going back to the same bad situation?
A: We do an assessment of each potential victim’s home situation and send her home only if she has a safe place to go to and there is no reason to believe that the family was knowingly involved in the suspected trafficking situation.
Q: Is there any follow-up with the potential victims after they are intercepted?
A: We conduct “post-intercept calls” one to six months after they have been intercepted in order to follow up on how they are doing and to determine if they need further assistance. However, it can be difficult to get in touch with past victims after the intercept.
Q: What happens to the potential victims who decide to continue with their travel plans, even after they are warned about the risks?
A: It is difficult to know exactly, but we provide them with phone numbers of organizations that they can call for assistance should they need it in the future.
Q: Do potential victims understand what trafficking is?
A: Some may have heard of the term or have a basic understanding of the concept, but many may not be able to recognize when it is happening to them because often they are being recruited by a relative, friend, or someone in their community where there is some level of trust.
Q: Why are potential victims vulnerable to being trafficked?
A: Many potential victims are vulnerable because they are living in poverty and lack opportunities at home, so they are desperate to seek employment opportunities elsewhere, including urban areas and overseas. They may be naive about the opportunities that would be available and lack the resources or awareness to identify whether an opportunity is legitimate or a front for trafficking.
Q: What happens to the person suspected of trafficking the victim?
A: If there is clear evidence of trafficking, our justice operations team get involved. If we are successful, the suspected trafficker will be taken into custody and prosecuted. However, there are many obstacles that stand between an intercept and conviction. Traffickers will often threaten the victim or their parents. The traffickers may bribe the victim to withdraw the case. Or the victim might just be afraid of the impact that pursuing a conviction would have on her reputation.
Q: Are suspected traffickers men or women?
Q: What gives you the authority to stop a potential victim/suspected trafficker who is traveling across a border?
A: We do not have official authority to prevent travel of potential victims, and we do not attempt to forcibly prevent someone from traveling. Although we don’t have the legal authority to prevent a girl from traveling, we work in partnership with authorities. If they conclude that the potential victim really is being trafficked, they will send the them home and prevent them from going on. If authorities don’t believe the potential victim is being trafficked, then we educate that person of the risks involved and may try to convince them so they decide to go home. When a suspected trafficker is present or there is clear evidence of trafficking, we involve local law enforcement, which has the authority to prevent travel.
Q: Is it dangerous to do this work along borders or at transit monitoring areas?
A: Human trafficking is, by its very nature, a violent crime, and the networks that engage in it tend to use violence—especially against those they see as a threat to their livelihood. Our staff are regularly threatened by traffickers. However, we take the safety of our staff very seriously, as indicated by our Standard of Security:
We must work to ensure a level of security that we would find acceptable for ourselves and loved ones.
By applying this standard, through training, preparation, and cooperation with local authorities, we are able to keep our staff safe, and none have been seriously injured in the line of duty.
Q: Do you intercept only women and girls?
A: We intercept both female and male potential victims. The majority of those we intercept are young girls and women who are possibly being trafficked for sexual exploitation. Some young girls are potentially being trafficked for forced labor. The young boys we have intercepted are most likely being trafficked for labor, for work in circuses, or for body parts.
Q: Why do you focus on intercepting potential victims instead of rescuing them?
A: There are two main reasons. First, by intercepting potential victims before they cross the border into another country, we are able to save them from reaching the destination where they may be hidden and subjected to trauma and exploitation. Even after rescue, the rehabilitation process for a trafficking survivor is often a long and difficult one. Therefore, our strategy focuses on actively preventing trafficking—and the resulting trauma—to keep potential victims from being exploited in the first place. Second, the cost to intercept a potential victim is a lot lower whereas the cost to rescue and rehabilitate a victim could be in the thousands. The point of this calculus is not to place a price on freedom, but to employ a strategy that can make a broader impact given limited resources. Even so, no child or adult should ever have to endure a life of slavery, and we support and partner with ministries that focus on rescues.
Q: How many potential victims are intercepted each month?
A: In South Africa, we intercept anything from 15 – 30 victims per month.
Q: What efforts are being made to educate the most vulnerable about the issue of trafficking?
A: With every potential victim we intercept, we prioritize educating them about the dangers of trafficking. We believe that this approach to awareness is very targeted and effective because it is educating someone that we believe was actually being trafficked or heading into a high-risk situation.
Q: What’s the average age of a potential victim who is intercepted?
A: According to studies, the average age of a victim of transnational trafficking is between 15-16 years old. The average age of the potential victims we currently intercept in South Africa is approximately 19-26 years old. However, we have intercepted girls and boys as young as 6 years old.
Q: How many transit monitoring stations do you operate, and where are they located?
A: We currently have one transit monitoring station in Johannesburg but we are planning on expanding to Cape Town, Durban and and other land border sites in 2018.
Q: How much does it cost to intercept a potential victim?
Q: Where and when is the gospel presented?
A: At Love Justice, our mission is “to proclaim the love of Jesus Christ by fighting the world’s greatest injustices.” We believe that a significant part of sharing the gospel involves love-in-action, which is never idle in the face of people’s sufferings. It is for this, and in obedience to Christ, that we serve “the least of these” whom Jesus calls us to help. We also share the gospel with every person we intercept, though none of the services we provide are contingent on a person’s response. Most of the women, men and children we intercept have never heard the gospel.
About Getting Involved
Q: An estimated 21-30 million people are enslaved in the world today. That is an overwhelming number, and I am just one person. Can I really make a difference?
A: The numbers are indeed staggering and can be numbing. But it is important to remember that the number represents people, each of whom is unfathomably precious. If we can save just one, that would be incredibly worthwhile. Just imagine the lengths you would go to if it were one of your loved ones! It costs us a fair amount to intercept one trafficking victim, so yes, you really can make a difference!
Q: How can I help?
A: You can help by praying, volunteering and fundraising by becoming a Love Justice Ambassador or by joining our monthly giving community.