EDITORIAL COMMENT: Human trafficking: Prudent to look gift horse in the mouth

The report of over 200 Zimbabwean women being stranded in Kuwait after being promised jobs is sickening. These are people whose only crime was to want to work. Instead they found themselves going through horrifying experiences as they were starved, overworked or in some cases turned into sex slaves. Human trafficking has become a worry for the country as many people seek better opportunities abroad.

Migration is a human trait as old as time which human traffickers take advantage of. As the world becomes a global village there is practically no country that is safe from human trafficking, either as the source of victims or the host country for the slavers.

It is generally accepted that people in countries in the developing world are exploited by human traffickers who promise them fabulous lives in developed countries. Millions of people, mostly women fall prey to modern day slavers each year.

An African country raised the ire of activists when it passed a law banning its women from going to a certain Asian country without special clearance after hundreds of its female citizens had become victims of human traffickers.

The legislators of that country felt that its female citizens were too gullible to promises of riches and therefore needed protection from themselves.

There are many examples of the girl or boy next door going to another country and making it big. Therefore, the lure of foreign lands is strong and many Zimbabweans will continue to seek employment abroad and it would be abhorrent to punish women through limiting their right to movement.

But it is undeniable that women make up the majority of human trafficking victims.

Everyone should be educated, informed and empowered to identify potential human trafficking scams. Distinguishing between genuine opportunity and potential slavery is something that anyone who is planning to go outside the country should be able to do.

It is always better to deal with agencies or individuals that one knows through personal reference rather than through virtual searches. Agencies with local physical addresses which have been in existence for a number of years are also easier to check out than online contacts.

If one does decide to go with an online advert, they should use social media to find people in the locality that the agency is said to operate from. Those people can confirm the existence of the purported opportunities.

Informing traffickers that you have local connections may spook them into dropping such a candidate as posing high risks. A red flag not to ignore is an offer that seems too good to be true because it often is just that.

Traffickers will often promise the victims automatic employment placement in prime cities, an eye popping basic salary with possibilities of overtime thrown in, free board at seemingly luxurious places, short working hours, return flights for regular visits home and other irresistible perks. When one comes across such an offer they should get a calculator and add up the figures of all those perks. Is it practical for a hotel to fork out over $120 000 a year for one housekeeping maid?

Most traffickers attract their victims through adverts. These can be in mainstream media or through the Internet on popular platforms.

One should make a rigorous background check to establish the bona fides of the advertiser. Some will claim to be affiliated to respectable institutions and may use deceptive web addresses to appear to be the genuine thing.

One should search for an independent link to the institution in question and send independent enquiries instead of just following given links for verification.

Human traffickers usually make travel arrangements for groups of intended victims. If you find that you are part of a contingent of people that you have many demographic features in common with, get worried.

Traffickers usually go for a type like young attractive women and very young girls especially when they are looking for sex slaves.

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