By Wallace Mawire :HARARE-The International Organization for Migration (IOM) Zimbabwe has launched a new project to assist the government of Zimbabwe in strengthening its national response capacity to combat trafficking in persons, according to Yukiko Kumashiro IOM Programmes Support Officer.
Kumashiro says that the project titled:Building National Response Capacity to Combat Human Trafficking in Zimbabwe is funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and supports the government of Zimbabwe counter-trafficking strategy focusing on raising awareness of trafficking in persons among government officials and members of the public.
Recent research on child trafficking, jointly conducted by IOM and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reveals that a number of minors in the country are being approached and recruited by traffickers.The study finds that children are trafficked to work in agriculture, for sexual exploitation and for domestic servitude both within and beyond Zimbabwe including in the neighbouring countries of South Africa and Botswana.
The US Department of State 2010 Trafficking in Persons report also lists Zimbabwe as a source,transit and destination country for trafficking of women and children.
Kumashiro says that activities under the project include, supporting the development of comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation and strengthening the national referral system for protection and reintegration assistance to trafficking victims, with a special focus on children and youth which are the gaps specifically identified by the IOM/UNICEF research.
“Due to its geographical location, Zimbabwe is highly vulnerable to both trafficking and smuggling in persons from Asia,Europe and from other African countries,” Kumashiro says.
She also adds that since 2005, the IOM Zimbabwe counter-trafficking programme has facilitated training and awareness raising on prevention,identification and victim assistance to law enforcement agents,social service providers,teachers and community leaders.
The programme also provides direct assistance to victims of trafficking,runs a nation-wide counter-trafficking hotline and supports local victims of trafficking shelters.
“The socio-economic deterioration in Zimbabwe in recent years has contributed to heightened vulnerabilties of Zimbabwean nationals to trafficking in persons, particularly youths.The USAID support is very timely as the government of Zimbabwe recently announced its intention to pass anti-human trafficking legislation in 2011.The project therefore enables IOM to strengthen its support to the government of Zimbabwe in the fight against human trafficking,” says IOM Chief of Mission in Zimbabwe, Mr Vincent Houver.