Malawi remains a hotspot for human trafficking with the June 2021 State Department Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report showing that cases sharply increased from 147 in 2019 to 688 in 2020.
The report said Malawian victims of sex and labour trafficking were identified in Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, Kenya and Tanzania as well as in Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
The victims, especially girls, are recruited for domestic service and some exploited for sex work. On the other hand, men and young boys are generally transported from the Southern Region to the Central and Northern regions for forced labour in estates, goat and cattle herding and brickmaking.
Speaking during a media orientation workshop to raise awareness on the Trafficking In Persons Act (2015) in Blantyre yesterday, Ministry of Homeland Security Principal Secretary Kennedy Nkhoma conceded that Malawi still remains a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking.
He said incidents of internal trafficking are even higher than transnational trafficking.
Nkhoma said it is a great concern that the country continues to struggle in dealing away with the vice and called for collaborative efforts in addressing the matter.
He said: “The fact that trafficking is taking place here in Malawi today must spur us all on to greater efforts to end this malpractice and the suffering it brings. And we must encourage victims to come forward and give them support needed when they do so.”
Nkhoma said as part of addressing such crimes, government enacted the Trafficking In Persons Act in 2015 which is aimed at preventing and eliminating human trafficking.
The TIP report shows that in 2020, there were 688 victims of trafficking in Malawi with 74 suspects involved in trafficking while in 2019 and 2018, there were 147 and 136 victims that were trafficked, respectively.
There were also 32 suspects in 2019 and 18 suspects in 2018.
Nkhoma said it is worrisome that the number of cases, victims and suspects involved in trafficking are increasing every year; hence, government wants to enhance awareness of the vice by engaging the media who should also lobby for policies to address the matter.
Ministry of Homeland Security Senior Deputy Secretary Patricia Liabuba said lack of knowledge about human trafficking and existence of the law is one of the driving factors behind escalating cases of human trafficking in the country.
“It is in this regard that the Ministry of Homeland Security has prioritised the media, considering the significant influence, impact and contribution they make in raising awareness among citizens,” she said.
According to Liabuba, criminal groups earn an estimated $32 billion in profit per year through the sale, exploitation and abuse of victims of trafficking.
Malawi Network against Trafficking (Mnat) national coordinator Caleb Thole yesterday said there is need for the media to prioritise investigative reporting to expose perpetrators of the vice and get to the root cause of the problem.
The 2015 Trafficking in Persons Act criminalises sex trafficking and labour trafficking, and prescribes punishment of up to 14 years imprisonment for offenses involving an adult victim and up to 21 years’ imprisonment for those involving a child victim.