WATCH: U.S. engages Zim on human trafficking

Harare - The United States is pushing for more partnerships with Zimbabwe to combat trafficking in persons (TIP) and will support efforts to reform legislation so it conforms to international best practice, a delegation from the State Department Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons said.

“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 Parlemo Protocols and we do that through partnerships with international organizations,” said Torrie Higgins,  Program Advisor at the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the U.S. Department of State.  “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.”

Higgins and Haley Wright, Foreign Service Officer, visited Zimbabwe September 25-29 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 Parlemo 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.

The State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons describes human trafficking as both sex trafficking and compelled labor.  International laws and treaties describe this compelled service using a number of different terms, including involuntary servitude, slavery or practices similar to slavery, debt bondage, and forced labor.  Human trafficking can include, but does not require, movement.

The visit by Higgins and Wright come at a time when the United States has noted “key achievements in the past year in handling trafficking in persons” in Zimbabwe.  The 2017 State Department Trafficking in Persons report notes that these achievements included increased efforts to investigate and prosecute alleged trafficking crimes.  Zimbabwean authorities coordinated with Kuwait to repatriate and refer to care 121 female trafficking victims, and also repatriated five victims from Sudan.

“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.

The 2017 U.S. trafficking in persons report commended Zimbabwe for launching its first national action plan and implementing several key activities in the plan.  Among these was the Anti-Trafficking Inter-Ministerial Committee which developed terms of reference to guide front-line responders in a victim-centered approach, and established two provincial taskforces to implement the national action plan at the provincial level.  The Committee also conducted training-of-trainers for police on victim identification interview procedures.  As a result, Zimbabwe was upgraded from Tier 3- among countries assessed as not meeting the minimum standards nor making significant efforts to meet them- to Tier 2 Watch List. – ZimPAS © October 2, 2017

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