Police warn human traffickers National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi.

Fidelis Munyoro-Chief Court Reporter

A human trafficking syndicate involving local people and foreigners is suspected of bringing to Zimbabwe the Malawians recently rounded up by police in Mbare, with authorities now hunting down the traffickers.

The first group of 30 Malawians that was arrested on Monday appeared before Harare magistrate Ms Caroline Matanga on Tuesday and were charged with illegal entry into Zimbabwe.

They were fined $50 each and were remanded in the custody of immigration, pending deportation. Another group of 21 foreign nationals was arrested Tuesday night in Mbare and are expected to appear in court today, facing similar charges.

The 51 foreign nationals were arrested in a police sting operation following a tip-off. 

National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said the police were now moving fast to round up a suspected syndicate of human traffickers. 

“We have gathered information that a human trafficking syndicate involving locals and foreigners is on the prowl in the country,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.

“The net is closing in on the suspects that have been identified, while some have been arrested.”

Asst Comm Nyathi warned Zimbabweans against being used in criminal activities and urged foreigners entering Zimbabwe to comply with the migration laws of the country.

“We want to warn Zimbabweans against being used to engage in criminal activities by elements involving local and foreign syndicates.” 

Young people and women are the prime targets of these syndicates as they are promised good jobs. Over the past decade, Zimbabwe has been frequently used as a transit point for some of these people believed to be en route to South Africa.

According to police, the crackdown on foreigners has been sparked by numerous cases of human trafficking aided by bus operators, villagers and unscrupulous officials. 

Trafficking of foreigners is a big and dangerous business in most countries in Southern Africa. There are known individuals and kingpins of the trade who kidnap foreigners and demand ransom of up to R80 000 per person. 

Trafficking in human beings for the purpose of sex work has been estimated as the second most lucrative transnational crime, equal to illegal arms trading and second only to drug trafficking the world over. 

It is a crime that generates billions of dollars in profits for the traffickers. In 2012, the number of victims forced into sexual exploitation was estimated at 4,5 million worldwide. 

The International Labour Office also found that estimates on cross-border movement of trafficked persons is closely aligned with forced sexual exploitation.

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