Human trafficking in Zimbabwe

Human trafficking in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and sexual exploitation. Large scale migration of Zimbabweans to surrounding countries—as they flee a progressively more desperate situation at home—has increased, and NGOs, international organizations, and governments in neighboring countries are reporting an upsurge in these Zimbabweans facing conditions of exploitation, including human trafficking. Rural Zimbabwean men, women, and children are trafficked internally to farms for agricultural labor and domestic servitude and to cities for domestic labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Women and children are trafficked for domestic labor and sexual exploitation, including in brothels, along both sides of the borders with Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa, and Zambia. Young men and boys are trafficked to South Africa for farm work, often laboring for months in South Africa without pay before “employers” have them arrested and deported as illegal immigrants. Young women and girls are lured to South Africa, the People’s Republic of China, Egypt, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada with false employment offers that result in involuntary domestic servitude or commercial sexual exploitation. Men, women, and children from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia are trafficked through Zimbabwe en route to South Africa. Small numbers of South African girls are trafficked to Zimbabwe for domestic servitude."Zimbabwe". [ "Trafficking in Persons Report 2008"] . U.S. Department of State (June 4, 2008). "This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain."]

The Government of Zimbabwe does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking ; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Zimbabwe is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for its failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking over the last year, and because the absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is significantly increasing. The government’s efforts to address trafficking at home somewhat diminished during the reporting period, particularly in regard to law enforcement efforts. In addition, the trafficking situation in the country is worsening as more of the population is made vulnerable by declining socio-economic conditions.


The government’s anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts diminished during the year, particularly in regard to prosecutions and convictions of traffickers. Zimbabwe does not prohibit all forms of trafficking in persons, though existing statutes outlaw forced labor and numerous forms of sexual exploitation. The government reported in 2007 that it was drafting comprehensive trafficking legislation; however, the draft has neither been made available for review nor introduced in Parliament. Unlike the previous year, the government did not prosecute any human traffickers during the reporting period; however, police launched investigations into three new cases of international trafficking involving four victims. None of the investigations or cases reported in 2006 came to completion. While it is not unusual for a detainee to remain in custody for prolonged periods—in some cases several years—before the case is heard in court, a three-month strike by magistrates, prosecutors, and court staff worsened the backlog of cases awaiting trial. Zimbabwean police made concerted efforts to halt commercial sexual exploitation throughout the country, arresting both individuals in prostitution and their clients; apprehended minors were not detained, but instead were interviewed by the police’s Victim Friendly Unit and referred for counseling. In 2007, Zimbabwe’s Interpol Office’s Human Trafficking Desk, staffed by Zimbabwean police detectives, took part in international trafficking investigations with Interpol offices in Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Zambia. The government did not provide specialized anti-trafficking training; however, government officials attended 10 IOM training workshops that focused on trafficking and the recognition of victims.


The growing number of illegal migrants deported from South Africa and Botswana, combined with a crippling lack of resources, severely impeded the government’s ability to effectively identify victims of trafficking among returnees. The Department of Immigration required all deportees returning from South Africa via the Beitbridge border crossing to attend an IOM-led briefing on safe migration, which includes a discussion on human trafficking and IOM’s assistance services. The District Council of Beitbridge employs a child protection officer and convenes a child protection committee. During the reporting period, the government allocated land to IOM to establish a second reception center in Plumtree for Zimbabweans deported from Botswana. Although the government has an established process for referring victims to international organizations and NGOs that provide shelter and other services, in 2007 the government primarily depended on these organizations to identify trafficking victims and alert the authorities. Zimbabwe’s Interpol Office, the Department of Immigration, and the Department of Social Welfare coordinated victim assistance with South African authorities in ongoing cases during the reporting period. The government encourages victims to assist in the prosecution of traffickers and offers foreign victims relief from deportation while they receive victim services and their cases are investigated.


The government sustained its previous level of anti-trafficking awareness raising efforts. There is a general lack of understanding about trafficking across government agencies, especially at the local level. However, senior government officials frequently spoke about the dangers of trafficking and illegal migration, and the state-run media printed and aired warnings about false employment scams and exploitative labor conditions. During the year, all four government-controlled radio stations aired an IOM public service announcement eight times each day in five languages during peak migration periods. In January 2008, the government signed a memorandum of understanding with the South African government for a joint project to regularize the status of illegal Zimbabwean migrant farm workers in South Africa’s Limpopo Province and ensure them proper employment conditions. The inter-ministerial anti-trafficking taskforce took no concrete action during the year. Information was unavailable regarding measures adopted by the government to ensure its nationals deployed to peacekeeping missions do not facilitate or engage in human trafficking. Zimbabwe has not ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.


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