By Iommie Chiwalo
The Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI) has launched ‘Oman rescue campaign after noting that relevant State agencies have information about those involved in the human trafficking business, but choose to look the other side.
Government’s unwillingness to rescue the trapped women heightens speculation that it had a hand in this sinister labour-export business in a bid to deal with the forex shortage problem.
The launch follows the expiry of the seven days ultimatum given to President Lazarus Chakwera to address the nation on the fate of 50 Malawian women enslaved in Oman, in the Middle East.
In a statement signed by CDEDI Executive Director Sylvester Namiwa and made available to this publication says the campaign is aimed at enjoining those sympathetic to the plight of enslaved women should come together to save them, and at the same time discourage those intending to travel to such countries from doing so.
“CDEDI regrets to inform all well-meaning people who have been following the heartbreaking stories about the 50 women known to be working in dehumanizing conditions and six others whose whereabouts are unknown, that government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has openly refused to rescue them,” Namiwa says.
The remarks by Namiwa are coming after government has said it is not ready to refund the US$2, 500 needed as a ransom for each enslaved woman. This is the total amount said to have been spent by the so-called sponsors on each woman’s air ticket, visa, medical tests, police clearance and other related travel requirements.
“What is sad about the whole saga is that besides not willing to rescue the women, the Malawi
Government is acting strange by trying hard to sweep the whole matter under the carpet and,
also, unleashing State machinery to silence those condemning the human trafficking business in
which these women were caught,” says Namiwa.
The involvement of State in the whole saga is evident considering that the trafficked people get legitimate documents with government approval and clearance of their travel, namely medical reports, police clearance and letters from the Labour office.
Namiwa discloses that his Organisation is reliably informed that the ransom money is being paid through Foreign Affairs ministry here in Malawi, which is evidence enough that government is part to this evil cartel.
He has since appealed to the United Nations to come to the rescue of our poor women.
“In the same vein, CDEDI is appealing to the leader of Opposition in Parliament to lobby Members of Parliament on his side to do whatever it takes to let the plight of these enslaved women take center stage in the august House,” he said.
Namiwa says all these efforts are coming because government’s refusal to use funds from the unforeseen budgetary allocation to rescue the victims has shattered the trapped women’s hopes to ever walk back to freedom.
On the approach to have rescue campaign materialize, Namiwa says his organisation has details of all the women trapped in Oman, such as names, contact numbers, and their specific locations.
“Those willing to join the ‘Oman Rescue Mission’ should contact us on +265993462700 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Otherwise, those not wishing to go through CDEDI are equally encouraged to engage the00 Foreign Affairs Ministry, which has reportedly set up a special desk to facilitate payment of the ransom money,” he said.
Apart from heartbreaking stories from Oman, there are also reports indicating that over 300 Malawians are trapped in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait facing a similar predicament.
Details have emerged that after the exposure of their sinister activities, the traffickers have stopped using Malawian international airports, opting for uncharted routes to Tanzania, Zambia and South Africa.
A clear observation is that the traffickers take advantage of the high unemployment levels in
the country and promise the unsuspecting job seekers the moon where they end up being tagged
‘shagari’, which means slave in Oman.
As the name suggests, they are subjected to dehumanizing working environment, which include
being forced to touch human waste with bare hands, assault, working while sick, denied medical
care and food, heavy workload and being used as sex objects.
Currently, six women whose whereabouts are unknown are feared dead due to malnutrition, starvation and torture.
“So far, only seven out 56 women that fell victim to the human trafficking in the guise of labour export have been rescued after their relatives and/or well-wishers paid the ransom money,”
Efforts to get more information from government spokesperson Moses Kunkuyu as well as Foreign Affairs spokesman John Kabaghe proved futile as their phones went on unanswered after several attempts.