Despite a well-publicised trip to Kuwait over the plight of Malawian girls stranded in that country following confiscation of their passports, Minister of Labour Henry Mussa returned home last week having failed to meet his counterpart Hind Al-Sabeeh.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation told Nation on Sunday recently that government could not immediately act on the request for assistance for at least 20 girls who were allegedly trafficked to the Emirates as it awaited a report from Mussa.
But in an interview on Tuesday, Mussa, who arrived back in the country on June 14, said he failed to meet Al-Sabeeh because she had to go and attend to some matters outside the country.
“When you are going to meet another minister there is what is called international labour protocol, whereby one has to go through their embassy who then communicates to the other embassy so that you are able to set up a meeting,” Mussa said.
The minister said the Malawian Embassy received a response that the meeting would take place, but upon confirmation of the same.
Mussa said it was while waiting for a confirmation that they were told that Al-Sabeeh had to leave to attend to other matters, which made it impossible for the two ministers to meet.
“Since we were not able to meet, we wrote to the Kuwait Embassy the concerns that we have when it comes to the treatment of our nationals who have gone to work there,” said Mussa.
He said all they can do now is wait for a response from the Kuwait Embassy on when the minister would be available for a meeting.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Francis Kasaila recently told Nation on Sunday that there was no government-to-government agreement on the current labour migration deals; hence, most of young people going to Kuwait were doing so on their own.
Meanwhile, a Zomba-based woman who recently returned from Kuwait, has said although she heard of human trafficking before, she never expected to become trapped in the vicious circle of labour migration herself.
In May this year, the woman who chose just to be called Maria was approached by a local ‘agent’ for her to travel to Kuwait for greener pasture.
“He told me that he has a sister in Kuwait who had a new born baby and wanted a baby sitter. After a few days of digesting what the local agent had told me, I failed to resist the offer because it was very tempting. I then started processing my travel documents,” she explained.
Maria said she was promised a monthly salary of K450 000 for the two years she was to work in the Middle East country.
“The agent told me that a visa and an air ticket would be ready within a few days if I accepted the offer,” she recalled.
Married to a businessperson and with four children, Maria said her husband gave her the blessings to travel to Kuwait “in order to make a fortune” that would supplement their businesses.
She said she finally got a call from a Zomba-based ‘agent’, instructing her to process medical and police reports at K20 000, which she did and flew out of the country via Kamuzu International Airport (KIA) a week later.
“What baffled me was that the agent said there were nine other women who were going to accompany me on the trip. I told him to justify how 10 women were going to raise a single child? It was when he said the other women were travelling on their business errands to Kuwait,” Maria narrated in the presence of her daughter.
Upon arrival in Kuwait, Maria said she realised that they were ‘sold’ to another ‘agent’ and were all dressed up in Arab regalia.
She said she was shocked to see some Malawian women being exploited, adding that some women from other countries in Africa are being used as drug traffickers to foreign destinations. Nonetheless, she ruled out sexual harassment and prostitution among the women.
She said she was taken by the ‘buyer’ to his house for her to start ‘work’. While at the house, her passport, phone and luggage were confiscated. She was then put in custody of doing some household chores in addition to raising the child.
Maria explained that she was only given two hours of rest per day. She found a chance to leave the place after her employer picked a quarrel with a certain boy in the corridors of the house.
“After the quarrel, she got angry with me and went into her bedroom where she collected my passport and luggage and threw them at me,” she said.
Maria said after that she sought refuge at Malawi Ambassador’s residence in Kuwait where she was provided with money for a flight back home. n