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Sunday, 7 February 2010

The business of human trafficking, 4th Edition

Doreen Nawa has an important piece on the growth in human trafficking in Zambia. The fundamental problem is lack of information. There's simply an absence of clear understanding of the scale of the problem. This has meant the problem has not commanded much public attention, as it should. The closest information we have is a very rough 2006 Central Statistical Office survey which revealed that 22%  of girls and 20 %  boys reported knowledge of human trafficking. 15% per cent reported knowing someone who had been trafficked. Very high numbers and hence the need for more study. On the policy side - surely we need a national policy to tackle human trafficking?

Human Trafficking Rises in Zambia, Doreen Nawa, The Times, Commentary :

A by-gone era of slavery appears again as cases of human trafficking increase worldwide with Zambia recording the highest cases in its history of human trafficking this year. Though slavery has been described as the greatest tragedy in human history, traces of it still exist in different forms like human trafficking in the modern day society. Olden day slavery normally dealt mostly with older people, since they were transported to other countries to do manual work. Nevertheless, modern day slavery concentrates mostly on the younger generation, which is termed the human trafficking.

According to Oxford Dictionary, Human trafficking is the acquisition of people by improper means such as force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them. So far, the recognised types of slavery in human trafficking include abuse, forced labour, and prostitution. Both youths and adults involved in this kind of slavery, in one way or the other, lose any freedom they have. For youths, their basic rights like the right to education, right of free expression, and even right for material needs are denied.

Worldwide, a generation of the youth is rapidly reaching adulthood bearing the tragic consequences of their nations’ worst problems of unemployment and poverty. This has led to a number of youths and also adults leaving their countries of origin in search of better living conditions without having a clear picture of where they are going.

The Immigration department disclosed it had in the last three months intercepted about 829 foreign nationals at various entry and check points suspected to have been destined for South Africa, Angola and Zambia respectively. Immigration Department public relations officer, Mulako Mbangweta says most Zambian borders were porous giving way to illegal entry of foreigners adding that the majority of the foreigners were using unorthodox means to enter into Zambia using it as a transit point and also their destination.

Ms Mbangweta says Zambia has, in the recent past, experienced a rise in the number of illegal immigrants entering the country as a destination as well as a transit point to South Africa and Angola- destinations of the World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations. Ms Mbangweta admits that it has been difficult to deal with cases of human trafficking in Zambia because mostly, the victims are secretive and often claim they are relatives of the alleged perpetrators. “Yes we have had increased cases of ‘suspected’ human trafficking the recent past mostly because of South Africa and Angola who are hosting these big soccer events. This is evident from the number of illegal immigrants that have been intercepted at our entry points of our immigration checkpoints. It has been difficult for us to investigate cases because the victims tend to defend the culprits by saying that they are related,” she confirmed.

Human trafficking is a growing problem in Zambia, despite an increase in the number of potential victims identified, there has not been a single conviction.

Smuggling migrants involve the procurement for financial or other material benefit of illegal entry of a person into a country of which that person is not a national or resident. Ms Mbangweta says there is little evidence that illegal immigrants coming to Zambia are considered to be trafficked because most of them say that they were brought in by their relatives which is mostly not true.

Human traffickers are trafficking people for sexual exploitation, forced labour and agricultural work. Traffickers employ a number of strategies such as offering overseas employment to the victims. Perhaps, a bigger problem is the number of people being trafficked into the country with very little evidence of them being victims of human trafficking. With the hosting of the major soccer events in mind, Zambia has become a transit point as well as a destination for human trafficking. The immigration department has recorded a rise in foreigners from Somalia, Bangladesh, and Pakistan illegally entering Zambia.

Poverty and lack of economic opportunity make adults and youths potential victims of traffickers associated with international criminals. They are vulnerable to false promises of job opportunities in other countries.

Human trafficking seems to be less pronounced on the streets of most Zambian towns but a visit to Chaisa Township in Lusaka leaves too numerous questions unanswered. Chaisa Township is a hive of activities conducted by foreigners mostly those from Somaliland-one would easily mistake the township for a residential area in Mogadishu!

Mr Jack Siatembo (not real name), a resident of Chaisa, is concerned about the increased number of foreigners in his area saying their security was at risk adding that the majority of the Somali nationals were taking advantage of their permits by illegally bringing in their fellow nationals into Zambia. Mr Siatembo says most Somali nationals did not have papers because they were illegally brought in after being promised a job in one of the mining industries but once they were brought here, the story changed and were now working as waiters or lorry boys.

Trafficking in persons is not only a violation of human rights but also an offence although the laws dealing with the offence in Zambia is weak such that it has been difficult for law enforcement agencies to punish the offenders if they do then they have to borrow from the Immigration Act. But one of the Somali nationals says Somali nationals resident in Zambia were peaceful despite them coming from a war-torn country that adding that majority of them were involved in businesses that were registered by the registrar of companies.

Mr Ali Abdullah (not real name), who runs a successful business in Lusaka, says he has been in Zambia for close to five years and has not experienced any harassment by indigenous Zambians adding that the peace that Zambians were enjoying had attracted numerous foreigners from war-torn countries to seek refuge in Zambia. Asked where he got money to start up a business in Lusaka, Mr Abdullah says the money he has invested in his business was acquired through partnership with his colleagues here in Zambia. “The money I used to start this business is my own. While in Somalia, I saved money with an international bank and after relocating here I contacted my friends here so that we could start a business. They agreed and I withdrew money from my bank and we put money together and started,” he recalls.

He notes that Zambia has a peaceful and favorable environment for everyone despite their nationality to stay and do business as long as you follow the rules with Immigration Department. When asked how he came into Zambia, Mr Abdullah says he came in through Nakonde Border and was advised by some friends who were already in Zambia on how to go about the registration with Immigration.

Commenting on increased cases of ‘suspected’ human trafficking in Zambia, Mr Abdullah says majority of people entering Zambia were ignorant of the requirements for foreigners in Zambia hence them being suspected to be trafficked. And Ms Mbangweta confirmed saying that possibilities of finding one or two illegal immigrants in Chaisa Township were high considering that most of them do not use proper channels when entering into Zambia. Ms Mbangweta further disclosed that most legal Somali nationals in Chaisa deal in transportation and fuel industry respectively adding that there could be some who were dealing in illegal business ventures that were against the Zambian laws.

The prevention of human trafficking requires several types of interventions. Some are of low or moderate cost and can have some immediate impact, such as awareness campaigns that allow high-risk individuals to make informed decisions. Strong laws that are enforced are an effective deterrent. However, serious law enforcement is expensive. According to the 2009 Global Report on Trafficking in persons, the Zambian Criminal Code contains a provision criminalising trafficking in persons, but it does not include the definition of the crime.

Virtually every country in the world is affected by this crime. The challenge for all countries, rich and poor, is to target the criminals who exploit desperate people and to protect and assist victimsof trafficking and smuggled migrants, many of whom endure unimaginable hardships in their bid for a better life. The rate at which mankind is refusing to let go of slavery, is in direct conflict with modern day democracy and its principles and has come to be regarded as a form of human rights abuse in our society.

Human freedom, dignity and pride are important. It is the responsibility of every human being to protect the rights of its fellow human and youths in particular, since they are the ones to take care of the future world.

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