By Daniel Chigundu
US officials who were in the country a few weeks ago have revealed that their country is pushing for more partnership with Zimbabwe to combat trafficking in persons (TIP) issues.
The two officials, Torrie Higgins who is Program Advisor at the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the U.S. Department of State and Haley Wright a Foreign Service Officer said the American Government will support efforts to reform legislation so it conforms to international best practice.
“Our foreign assistance (in Zimbabwe) is going to be focusing a lot on legislative amendments including bringing the 2014 anti-trafficking law into alignment with the Palermo Protocols and we do that through partnerships with international organizations.
“We are also going to be looking at partnering on upgrading some shelter services and training shelter staff on how to provide services for trafficking in persons victims,” said Higgins
Higgins and Wright visited Zimbabwe last week where they held meetings and seminars with government officials, civil society representatives and journalists.
The meetings focused on U.S. priorities on TIP issues and also enabled the U.S. representatives to engage on priorities of all member parties to the United Nations Palermo Protocol.
The Palermo protocols are three protocols that were adopted by the United Nations to supplement the 2000 Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (the Palermo Convention).
They include the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children; and the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air.
While officially releasing the 2017 TIP report in July this year, political affairs officer in the US Embassy Krista Fisher said Zimbabwe has made great achievement in its handling of trafficking issues but was lagging behind on the issue of legislation.
“The government made key achievements during the reporting period; therefore Zimbabwe was upgraded to Tier 2 Watch List. These achievements included increased efforts to investigate and prosecute alleged trafficking crimes.
“The government coordinated with Kuwait to repatriate and refer to care 121 female trafficking victims, and also repatriated five victims from Sudan. It conducted training-of-trainers for police on victim identification interview approaches.
“…despite these achievements the government did not convict any traffickers during the reporting period. It did not amend the 2014 TIP Act, which was inconsistent with international law.
“Prosecutors used non-trafficking laws to charge cases that were potentially trafficking due to lack of training on the application of the anti-trafficking law,” she said.
Zimbabwe is regarded as a source market for TIP owing to its centrality in the Sadc region and also because of economic challenges that have resulted in people looking up to the diaspora for survival.
Haley Wright described their meetings and engagements with various stakeholders in the country as being fruitful.
“Our meetings have gone really well and we look forward to continuing that engagement over the coming year …we met with some parliamentarians this morning and we are really buoyed over by their professionalism and commitment,” said Wright.