Probe Kuwait trafficking saga: MPs

HARARE - Legislators have petitioned government to commission a team of investigators to Kuwait following growing fears that more Zimbabwean women could be trapped in the Middle East.

This comes as 101 women have so far been rescued from Kuwait — where they worked as “slaves” — with five more currently in the care of the Zimbabwean embassy in that country.

Parliament’s Foreign Affairs portfolio committee chairperson, Kindness Paradza, said Zimbabwean investigators should be sent to the Middle East to probe the matter.

“The latest batch of girls have told us that there are more girls trapped in Saudi Arabia who do not have access to a source of communication,” he said, adding that  “more girls in Kuwait do not know where the embassy is or how to seek help.” he told the Daily News last week.

“Investigators should be sent to these countries to reach these girls so they can be brought home.”

The women were working in Kuwait mostly as housemaids, but ended up being ill-treated and working long hours.

The Zimbabwean women were apparently recruited by a syndicate of agencies in both Kuwait and Zimbabwe after having been promised lucrative employment opportunities.

Previously, it had been estimated that about 200 Zimbabwean women were trapped in the gulf country, but those who were rescued revealed that the numbers were way higher.

Upon return, the women have attested that they were treated as slaves, suffered emotional and physical abuse, and lost their freedoms as their documentation and mobile phones were confiscated.

However, the investigators face a tough task to convince the Arab employers to let the employees go.

Employers’ Confederation of Zimbabwe (Emcoz) executive director John Mufukare says the Arab employers treat workers as their property.

“The Arabs are very clear. The domestic worker is his property and would not want the involvement of authorities,” he said at a global migration trends workshop which focused on challenges for migrant domestic workers in Arab States.

The Labour and Social Welfare ministry, which is working to educate prospective employees on various labour practices in foreign lands, said the girls were being repatriated to Zimbabwe based on the sourcing of funds to rescue them.

“Indeed, human trafficking was a largely silent phenomenon in Zimbabwe until April 2016 when our embassy in Kuwait realised that an estimated 200 Zimbabwean women were stranded in Kuwait after falling into the trap of human trafficking.

“Since then, the government has made frantic efforts to repatriate victims of human trafficking,” the ministry’s permanent secretary Ngoni Masoka said.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwean authorities will monitor private employment agencies.

The government is also crafting a labour migration policy likely to be adopted by the end of 2017.

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