The Malawi Police Service says it is geared to ensure that human trafficking cases are reduced through effective prevention strategies and prosecution of perpetrators.
In its 2015 report on Trafficking in Persons, the Malawi Police registered a total of 142 rescued victims, 68 arrests out of which 58 were convicted, representing 85% conviction rate.
The report indicates that in the year 2014, 242 victims were rescued, 47 suspected traffickers arrested and 24 convicted, putting the conviction rate to 51 percent.
The report also shows that most of the victims were children.
Responding to an emailed questionnaire, National Police Child Protection Officer Alexander Ngwala said most of external trafficking occured in Blantyre, Phalombe, Machinga, Zomba, Balaka, Dedza and Mchinji.
“There is evidence that children are being trafficked to Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, South Africa and other European countries.
Research shows that there are at least three broad trafficking scenarios in the country which are; victims trafficked from Asian and European countries to African countries including Malawi, Trafficking of persons locally and trafficking of persons to other countries. Malawi as a primary supplier or transit country,” said Ngwala.
According to the Child Protection Officer, police have this year engaged members of the community especially in bordering districts; sensitizing them on how they can identify victims of Trafficking in Persons and report perpetrators to authorities.
Human rights activist Habiba Osman called on government to take Trafficking in Persons as a cross cutting issue and operationalise and popularise the Anti Trafficking in Persons Law which was passed in February last year and accented by the President last November as well as address discrepancies in the law.
She said it was disheartening to note that courts are still using general Acts such as Child Care Protection and Justice Act and Employment Act 2000 leading to lenient sentences.
Maximum penalty for those convicted for Trafficking in Persons is 21 years but lately offenders have been given as little as two years while others have been told to just pay a small amount as fine.
According to Osman, Trafficking in Persons is augmented by factors such as low literacy levels and poverty, which lead to vulnerability as traffickers cheat the victims with compelling promises.
She called on government to provide adequate designated shelters for victims and speed up processing of birth certificates which has become a major challenge in the victim rescuing process.