March 29, 2004
Posted to the web March 29, 2004
REPORTS of organised human trafficking and smuggling gangs in Zimbabwe are
disturbing and call for swift action to nip it in the bud before the problem
gets deeply rooted.
Scores of foreigners, mostly Asians of Pakistan origin have been smuggled
into the country, where they perceive huge opportunities to engage in
Immigration officials and the police have managed to bust trafficking rings
involving nationals from Pakistan, Rwanda, Burundi and Somalia.
Evidence abounds in the country of the organised human trafficking rings
whose roots have been traced back to such countries as Pakistan.
One Pakistani arrested in Harare recently has allegedly confessed to have
paid US$500 to trafficking ring leaders after which he was taken to a lodge
in the capital city where he joined several others from Pakistan waiting to
get their papers "processed".Suspected Burundi and Somali human traffickers
have also been arrested for smuggling scores of foreigners into the country
using forged documents and charging their victims US$1 000. Some Congolese,
Ban-gladesh and Nigerian nationals are also under investigation.
Some of the illegal immigrants who have been caught in Zimbabwe were found
to be in transit to South Africa, where they believe it is easier to find
jobs and lead a better life.
Three Zimbabweans have been nabbed after being implicated in the racket for
processing fake work permits and travel documents of people that have been
smuggled into the country.
Human trafficking is probably the fastest growing area of crimes in the
world and the scourge, which is rampant in Europe, is now spreading fast in
Africa, eclipsing the more risky and now less lucrative drug trade.
The United Nations estimates that world-wide, gangs who are often one step
ahead of investigators, make US$7 billion annually from trafficking in
humans, and at least 700 000 people are smuggled from their home countries
But for the majority of the victims of human trafficking, promises of wealth
and better life often turn out to be modern-day slavery.
Young men and women are lured by agents who cash in on the dreams of the
poor to make it big in developed countries or African countries with
opportunities like Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana.
In Europe, the majority of the victims are women, who come from eastern
European countries such as Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, and Lithuania. However,
increasing numbers are also coming from Africa, Zimbabwe included.
According to the UN, women have been an easy target for the sex traffickers,
who make promises of well-paid jobs, marriage to well off gentlemen or an
artistic career in the art of exotic dancing, the preferred euphemism for
Once they get to their destination, they soon discover that they are in the
sex trade and their passports are confiscated. The women often work extra
hours to pay off debts and bills of expenses charged by the traffickers.
They are, in most instances reluctant to report the cases for fear of
In Europe, typical areas of work for victims of human trafficking include
domestic service, prostitution and forced labour in factories.
Russian trafficking victims working in the sex industry in Germany, for
example, reportedly earn US$7 500 monthly - of which the trafficker takes at
least US$7 000.
Zimbabwean immigration officials and the police said most of those arrested
without proper documents have been implicated in prostitution,
money-laundering and illegal foreign currency deals.
It has since emerged that foreigners are behind the mushrooming of brothels
in Harare's Avenues area, where strip-tease business has become popular with
Illegal immigrants from such countries like Burundi, Rwanda and Somalia have
entered Zimbabwe through border jumping or under the guise of refugees
running away from civil wars.
Their voyage can chill all but the most desperate. For example, 26 Somalis
recently entered the country at Chirundu border post using fishing boats.
Others risk their lives in squalid and airless truck containers for days
trying to reach their destinations.
While immigration authorities and the police maybe acting to clampdown on
the sophisticated criminal networks of the traffickers, landlords, whose
properties have been used by the traffickers as bases or hideouts are paid
handsomely in hard foreign currencies and will not inform the authorities.
The lure of the scarce foreign currency and profits made in the illicit
activities also make it very possible for traffickers to buy police and
immigration. This also makes the crackdown more difficult.
Despite such hindrances, the authorities should intensify the war against
the human trafficking sharks, whose activities are not only a threat to the
socio-economic system of the country, but also to national security.
However, stiffer sentences for human traffickers, such as lengthy jail
terms, should have a deterrent effect.
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Journalists Denied UK Visas
Zimbabwe Standard (Harare)
March 28, 2004
Posted to the web March 29, 2004
IN an unprecedented move, British immigration authorities in Harare have
denied three senior Zimbabwean journalists business visas to the UK on
suspicion that they would not return upon arrival there, The Standard has
The journalists - who include a line editor from The Herald and two senior
editors from the Zimbabwe Independent and The Standard - were told by UK
visa officer Andrew Gerrad that he was not "satisfied" that they were
"genuinely seeking entry for the purpose and period as stated".
The journalists had been invited by British Airways as a routine trip to see
the current travel arrangements for Zimbabweans wanting to visit the UK. "I
have been to England on several occasions and I have never met such
treatment. It's unfair for them to say that I would desert my job and family
to go to UK," said one of the affected journalists.
The Zimbabwe National Editors' Forum (Zinef) said it was "appalled" by the
British embassy's decision to refuse visas for the three journalists.
"Although the three were invited separately, the embassy's entry clearance
office made gross generalisations about them that were both spurious and
prejudicial," said a statement from Zinef.
"No evidence whatsoever was supplied for the assumption that they would not
return to Zimbabwe. All three, to our knowledge, had every intention of
returning to this country. They have jobs and families here."
Efforts to contact the British Embassy for comment were fruitless.