The government of Zimbabwe has rescued 105 Zimbabwean women and two men who had been lured into slavery through fake promises of well-paying domestic work in the Gulf region.
Some of the women, aged between 25 and 45, had been working in virtual captivity for nearly two years in Arab countries.
An official investigation earlier this year concluded that some local employment agents, working in collusion with criminal syndicates in the Middle East, were recruiting Zimbabwean women before trading them off into slavery.
It was established that most of the women had their passports confiscated on arrival and were being forced to see out their two-year employment contracts in spite of poor working conditions.
Some of the employers were reportedly demanding up to US$2 500 from the women in return for their freedom, according to the official investigation.
The investigation also established that most of the domestic workers were earning between US$60 and US$80 per month.
In an interview on the sidelines of the SADC High-Level Tripartite Dialogue on Migration Management held in Victoria Falls recently, Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Secretary Mr Simon Masanga said the authorities were concerned about increasing cases of human trafficking in the country. Masanga told The Sunday Mail:
We have made great strides in making sure that we bring back our citizens.
A few weeks ago, we repatriated about 105 women. Their situation was not good at all.
They were forced to work under poor conditions for two years, while their salaries went to agents who facilitated their travel.
The challenges they faced include long working hours with no rest; no off days, even when one was unwell, physical assault and verbal abuse.
They endured a lot of suffering. So, we have put them under the guidance of the Department of Social Welfare, which helps them with a smooth reintegration back into society, ensuring their privacy is respected, at the same time, taking care of their welfare.
Programmes officer responsible for migration and repatriation in the Ministry of Social Welfare Mrs Margareth Ruzive said the government trained them in different fields, including poultry farming, and offered financial support of up to US$1 000.
Mrs Ruzive added that the government had to bring in psychologists and other professionals to assist with their recovery.
Vice President Constantino Chiwenga said Zimbabwe was working to strengthen inter-agency cooperation to prevent unethical recruitment of human capital.
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In a statement, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said section 33 of the Criminal Code of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act was oppressive. Said ZLHR: Learn More