The six men from Nepal believed they were heading to the United States for work. Instead, after a long journey which took them through six countries, they arrived in Malawi. They were locked in a house and their passports were taken away. A husband and wife were offered lucrative jobs on a tobacco estate in neighbouring Zambia. Once there, they were treated badly, deprived of food and not paid at the end of their contract.
But the job turned out to be very different from what they expected – they were forced into prostitution.
All these people were victims of human trafficking. Malawi is also a transit country for victims of trafficking who are taken to other African countries, including South Africa, Tanzania and Mozambique, and to parts of Europe.
“The Government of Malawi accepts that more needs to be done to tackle this crime and there are gaps in the current approach,” says Maxwell Matewere, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) National Project Officer on Trafficking in Persons. “It also appreciates the expertise that we can offer,” he adds.
Following a request from the Ministry of Homeland Security for support in the implementation of the national Trafficking in Persons Act, which was developed with the assistance of UNODC, Mr Matewere recently spent three weeks mentoring law enforcement officers.
“The on-site coaching took place in Blantyre, Phalombe and Mchinji. These are the regions of the country with the highest prevalence of trafficking,” he says. During the sessions, the UNODC expert reviewed cases to establish whether the law enforcement and protection officers had followed the correct procedures.
“We did discover that in many cases this had not happened, but it was encouraging to see the commitment of the participants,” says Maxwell Matewere. “They are all determined to improve on the areas of weakness we identified and learn from our expertise.”