By Alex Bell
06 November 2012
Zimbabwe’s government is under pressure to urgently pass anti-trafficking legislation, which will be critical for the fight against human trafficking in the country.
The government is yet to pass any anti-trafficking legislation, while the international Protocol to fight the human trafficking practice has only been approved, not ratified. The delay in ratifying this ‘Palermo Protocol’, along with the lack of necessary laws, is being blamed for the increase in human trafficking cases.
The country is now also considered a central hub for trafficking, with traffickers using Zimbabwe as the source, transit path and destination for the illegal practice.
This is according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), whose Zimbabwe wing this week launching an awareness campaign with the government about the problem of human trafficking.
Natalia Perez, the Acting Chief of Mission for the IOM Zimbabwe, told SW Radio Africa on Tuesday that the enactment of trafficking legislation would be a critical boost to the fight against the practice.
She explained that Zimbabweans in rural areas are particularly vulnerable to trafficking rings, explaining how many young, rural Zimbabweans have been picked up by traffickers. She said this trend was likely because of a lack of awareness about the situation.
Several people, including foreigners and local Zimbabweans, have in the past year been arrested for their involvement in human trafficking. In August last year police arrested a 32 year old Bulawayo man for allegedly smuggling 21 children, aged between one and 16 years, into South Africa.
Earlier this year 41 Bangladeshi nationals, believed to be part of a human trafficking syndicate, were arrested in a joint operation by Zimbabwean and Zambian officials. Of the 41, 16 were arrested in Victoria Falls while the other 25 were arrested in Zambia.
In Zambia, where anti-trafficking legislation exists, the punishment if found guilty can be as much as 20 years in prison.
But in Zimbabwe, the 16 arrested men only served 30 days behind bars.