MIL OSI Translation. Region: France and French Territories –
Source: United Nations – in French 2
Headline: Refugees at risk: UN uncovers human trafficking in Malawi camp
Measures are underway to dismantle a human trafficking network operating in the Dzaleka refugee camp, identify and rescue victims, and bring those responsible to justice.
“The situation was much worse than we had originally anticipated,” says UNODC’s Maxwell Matewere, who first visited the camp in October 2020, where he trained staff and forces. order to the detection of cases of trafficking as well as the organization of a response.
“I even witnessed a kind of Sunday market, where people come to buy children, who are then exploited in situations of forced labor and prostitution,” he adds.
© UNODC/Patience Ngunde
Criminal networks operate in the Dzaleka refugee camp in central Malawi.
UNODC trained and mentored 28 camp leaders and law enforcement officers. They are now involved in identifying victims and investigating cases of trafficking. The agency will train other colleagues in police stations and border crossing posts.
90 victims rescued to date
Since the training and implementation of the new anti-trafficking procedures, more than 90 victims have been identified and rescued.
The framework for the identification, rescue and referral of victims was developed by UNODC, with the support of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). ).
“UNHCR and all its partners will never give up their efforts to end the scourge of human trafficking and migrant smuggling among refugees in Malawi,” said Owen Nyasulu, Field Protection Associate in the Office of the UNHCR in Malawi, which supports UNODC’s work in Dzaleka refugee camp.
Most of the rescued victims are men from Ethiopia, between the ages of 18 and 30. There are also girls and women, aged 12 to 24, from Ethiopia, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Trafficked from the age of 10
Some of the victims have been helped to return to their home countries, while others are being cared for in safe houses. Several victims, identified at border posts, asked to be sent back to the camp to seek asylum.
A 16-year-old girl from the DRC was rescued from forced prostitution by an undercover police officer who had been trained by UNODC.
“I arrived at the camp in 2009 after having left my country of origin because of the conflict,” she says. “One evening, in a nightclub inside the camp, I was approached by a man who told me that he identified people who were being exploited”.
The young girl, trafficked from the age of 10, explains that at first she did not trust the agent, because she thought that “all the men were violent and looking for sex “.
“That evening I had been beaten by one of my clients for refusing to have sex because of a bleeding cut. I was in pain and it was visible. The officer had a friendly tone. He took me to a safe place”.
The young girl is now following an introductory computer course and hopes to be able to return home: “I would like to become a teacher, and I would like to find my brother, whom I have not seen for a long time”, she says.
Children sold as agricultural labor
The new procedures contain clear guidelines for transferring victims to authorities where they can receive appropriate care.
“Before our intervention, victims of trafficking would have been placed in police cells or prisons, alongside criminals. Now they are directed to specially equipped safe houses that we have helped to prepare for the arrival of the victims,” explains Maxwell Matewere of UNODC.
Different types of human trafficking have been identified in the Dzaleka refugee camp. Children are victims of trafficking inside the camp but also outside, for agricultural work and domestic work.
Women and girls are sexually exploited inside Dzaleka, in the rest of Malawi, or transported for sexual exploitation to other countries in southern Africa.
Male refugees are subjected to forced labor inside the camp, or on farms in Malawi and other countries in the region.
© UNODC/Patience Ngunde
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the Malawi Police Service have uncovered a network of widespread exploitation of men, women and children in Dzaleka refugee camp in central Malawi .
An international network
The camp is also used as a hub for processing victims of human trafficking. The traffickers recruit the victims in their country of origin under false pretenses, bring them across the border into Malawi and bring them into the camp.
Thanks to recent successful operations in the camp, based on intelligence gathering, the police now have more information on the international nature of the network.
“It is established that the victims are recruited in Ethiopia, in the DRC and in Burundi by agents of the network, who offer them work opportunities in South Africa, the economic power of the continent”, explains Mr. Matewere. “Once in the camp, they are told that they must repay the debts incurred during their clandestine crossing in Malawi. They are exploited on site or transported to other countries in the region to be subjected to forced labour”.
So far, five arrests have been made and the cases are ongoing. The suspected traffickers hail from Malawi, Ethiopia, Burundi, Rwanda and the DRC.
Too scared to testify
However, according to the Malawi Police Service, efforts to bring human traffickers and migrant smugglers to justice are hampered by the fact that those involved are too afraid to testify in court.
Dzaleka refugee camp, the largest in Malawi, was established in 1994 and is home to more than 50,000 refugees and asylum seekers from five different countries. It was originally designed to accommodate 10,000 people.
“We fear that this is only the beginning and that the number of victims is very high. The authorities strongly suspect that a highly organized international syndicate is operating inside the camp,” says Maxwell Matewere.
Awareness materials on human trafficking will soon be distributed in the camp, which should encourage more victims to seek help.
“All camp security guards must receive frequent training on the eradication of human trafficking,” said Owen Nyasula of UNHCR. These agencies must work closely with religious and community leaders, as well as local police forces, to end this form of modern slavery.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and/or sentence structure not be perfect.