MORE than 70 Zimbabwean victims of human trafficking have so far been repartriated back home home from Kuwait since government and other stakeholders have chipped in to help the more than 200 women who were apparently being against their will in the Gulf country.
Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo told journalists at a press briefing in Harare on yesterday (Thursday) that the government was working on plans to facilitate the safe return of those still there.
“In line with the Trafficking in Persons Act, the Government of Zimbabwe has been seized with the case with a view to facilitate the repatriation of the victims of trafficking. So far quite a number of the victims have been assisted to return back home,” he said.
“We have reports that more still need to be assisted to return and the government is working on different modalities to facilitate the safe return of our citizens. As of now, we have 19 other women at the (Zimbabwean) embassy in Kuwait waiting to be repatriated back home. So far, we have had 70 women that have actually arrived.”
He said they were working with the Foreign Affairs ministry to ascertain how many Zimbabweans were issued with visas to Kuwait in the last two years.
“It is the duty of our government to make sure that when all the processes are done, the 19 girls are sent back home. Government has the resources to bring them back, those that have reported at our embassy in Kuwait. We have the money and we are coming, that is the primary focus of our existence,” Chombo said.
In April, government failed to raise about US$12 000 that was required to bring about 32 of the over 200 women back home.
The women had sought refuge at the house of Zimbabwean Ambassador to Kuwait, Mark Grey Marongwe, who was reportedly taking care of them using his own resources.
A group of local Members of Parliament who had travelled to Kuwait last month on a bilateral relationship visit, led by Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda, and which included legislators Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, Sabbina Thembani and Kindness Paradza, as well as Senator Chief Musarurwa, alleged government had told them it was “broke” and could not bring them back home.
“Yes, there are 32 women stranded here. Honourable Kindness Paradza called (Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe) Mumbengegwi, but was told government had no money,” Misihairabwi-Mushonga said.
Paradza said they had met with the Kuwaiti ruler Sheik Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabar and acting Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, adding a directive had been issued that the women should be repatriated.
Foreign Affairs secretary Joey Bimha back then said Treasury did not provide embassies with a vote to cover such cases.
“The only thing the ambassador can do is to get in touch with the families of the women and arrange with them to make sure that they raise funds for air tickets to bring them home,” he said.
Harare based businessman Wicknell Chivayo rescued 32 of the stranded women, by buying airtickets worth about US$59 000 for them, afte they had been lured to the Gulf country to work as housemaids, but reportedly ended up as sex slaves. – ANA edited by Patience Rusere