Felex Share Senior Reporter
Government has written to the government of Kuwait seeking an immediate ban on the issuance of Article 20 visas to Zimbabweans to prevent more people from being trafficked to the Middle East country.
Under Kuwaiti immigration laws, an Article 20 visa restricts one to being a domestic worker.
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Government also wants the Kuwait government to arrange compensation for the period Zimbabwean human trafficking victims were forced to work without pay.
This comes amid reports that Cabinet has directed that a special fund be established to cater for Zimbabwean victims of human trafficking in various countries.
This is contrary to reports that Government was not doing anything to repatriate the victims.
In his letter to Kuwait Foreign Affairs Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah dated May 10, Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi said the requests were meant to avoid a recurrence of a situation where more than 200 local women were held hostage in that country.
“I wish to bring to your attention a very disturbing chain of events that have affected Zimbabwean young women who were lured to Kuwait under the guise of taking up lucrative employment,” Minister Mumbengegwi wrote.
“The number of distressed Zimbabwean women who have escaped from bondage and sought refuge at the Zimbabwean embassy in Kuwait City are 83 and the numbers continue to grow with each passing day since the number of Zimbabwean young women in Kuwait is believed to be well over 200.
“It is for all the above stated reasons that the Government of Zimbabwe seeks your full cooperation to immediately desist from issuing to Zimbabwean nationals, especially women, Article 20 visas.”
Young women are said to be lured to Kuwait by a local human trafficking syndicate on the pretext that they will get lucrative jobs.
The latest batch of 21 returnees arrived last Friday.
Most of the women end up being beaten up, sexually abused, working for very long hours, given low wages and sometimes not being paid at all.
Minister Mumbengegwi said Government was also seeking cooperation in “identifying and locating all Zimbabweans issued with Article 20 visas, granting access to Zimbabwean diplomats accredited to Kuwait to these nationals with the view to having them repatriated”.
He wrote: “Your cooperation is needed in permitting the diplomats to collect personal possessions left in the custody of their former masters as the ladies fled from the unbearable conditions they were subjected to. We also seek that you facilitate the immediate repatriation of those currently held at the Zimbabwean embassy or in shelters.
“We seek your cooperation in the arrest and deportation from Kuwait into our custody, Zimbabwean criminals who have been identified as being part of the criminal syndicate operating in the trafficking in persons in the State of Kuwait.”
The criminals include Ms Lorraine Nhapata (+956 947863319), Ms Margaret Tinashe Nyamande (+965 66127163) and Ms Chipo Kolomola (contact not given).
Minister Mumbengegwi said goings on in Kuwait violated international labour laws and the Convention against Transnational Organised Crime, principally the protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking of persons, especially women and children.
He said the abuse on the women had left them “traumatised and scarred for life.”
It is understood on arrival, the victims are sold for between $2 500 to $3 000 as maids.
Sources said Government was on its toes, working to ensure everyone was brought back home.
“Cabinet was apprised all along of the situation (in Kuwait) and as a result has instructed that the Zimbabwean embassy in Kuwait be given money to deal with this situation and repatriate the victims,” said a source.
“It was also directed that a special fund be created to deal with victims of human trafficking. Contrary to reports that Government was doing nothing, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been engaged with the issue from the very initial reports that were made. There was constant communication between the ambassador (Grey Marongwe), the Minister and permanent secretary of Foreign Affairs (Joey Bimha) and director for consular and legal affairs.”
The source said as a result of the communication, some of the maids had been repatriated with the help of their families.
“Some of the women who had escaped came back home through the contacts of their relatives who raised money for their air tickets,” said the source.
“Under our current financial challenges, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was not able to raise funds immediately. Consultations were made through the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development to engage appropriate partners and the Organisation on Migration to get funds.”
Zimbabwe is following in the footpaths of countries such as Sierra Leone, Ghana and Ethiopia who have banned the issuance of visas to Kuwait.
In Zimbabwe, persons behind this racketeering are being apprehended and charged under the domestic law on Trafficking in Persons Chapter 9:25.