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100 risk being trafficked to Canada

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Fresh from the Kuwait jobs controversy, there are fears that close to 100 Malawians may be traded to work at farms in Canada next month, Malawi News investigations have established.

Most of the people making the group are young men and women who are seemingly desperate to make something of their lives and earn fast money.

Our findings show that the recruits have already paid K38, 000 each as ‘processing fee’ to Blantyre based Malawian agents (names withheld). They also submitted their passports to the agents for ‘further processing’.

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The youthful Malawians have been recruited on the premise that they will be working at farms in Canada where they will be paid an equivalent of MK1.7 million a month, but they will only work for several months and return back home.

The agents have also promised the Malawian recruits that they will not be responsible for any more payments, as their air tickets, visas and other requirements will be done for them for free.

According to our sources, there are a number of Malawian middlemen who have been doing the clandestine ‘recruitment’ on behalf of their (unknown) Zimbabwean master minder.

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He instructed the middlemen to send all the passports to another agent (name withheld) in Mulanje, who was supposed to send the passports to Zimbabwe through Mozambique using any possible means.

We have established that the master minder wanted to process visas for the recruits in South Africa.

It is understood that in the course of their discussions, the middlemen failed to agree on their terms. One of them then tipped the police that someone was moving around with 100 passports and he was soon arrested in Nyambadwe by Ndirande Police.

But things took an interesting twist when they were summoned by the police, as every one of them refused to have their statement recorded. They somehow convinced the police that this was a mere disagreement to do with their ‘business’.

Surprisingly, they were released without being taken to task over their ‘business’ or how they came to be in possession of the hundred passports.

Blantyre Police Spokesperson, Elizabeth Divala confirmed the development and claimed the matter was sorted out by police.

“There was no statement that was taken as it transpired that this issue was a mere disagreement. Each one suspected that the other had pocketed the money which the recruits paid, but it appears they have all been duped since the money was sent through Airtel money to another number,” she said.

Divala added that the police counselled the people.

“The passports were given back to them to be returned to the owners. They were also warned against sending money and important documents to strangers since they may not know their intentions,” she said.

We have however established that the operation may not have been aborted as assumed by the police.

Some of the recruits we have spoken to are adamant that they are going to Canada next month and they do not feel duped in any way.

Reacting on the issue, Chairperson for Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC), Justin Dzonzi, said he did not expect anyone to fall for such schemes after the exploitation of Malawians recruited in the same manner in Kuwait last year.

“This shows that there hasn’t been enough awareness on issues of human trafficking and the newly enacted Trafficking in persons law. This may look a legit recruitment when it is far from it,” he said, urging government to take a step further by probing the issue.

Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Labour, Sports and Manpower Development, Joseph Mwandidya, while acknowledging the existence of bogus international employment agencies, said he is not aware of this issue.

“We have tried to do some awareness on these issues but I must admit it’s difficult to follow up and spot such bogus agencies. They go straight to the people and deliberately by-pass us,” he said.

Our research on the conditions of service for migrants in Canada has established the existence of high degree exploitation and abuse. The foreign migrants work at least 11 hours a day. However, we noticed that Malawi is not one of the participating countries of the seasonal agriculture worker programme which the Canadian government set up to recruit migrants from Mexico and other Caribbean countries.

Malawian migrant workers have suffered abuse and exploitation in Kuwait, where their travelling documents were confiscated upon arrival. This resulted in most of them escaping from their employers and camped at the Malawi embassy in Kuwait. They returned home, during a trip that was facilitated and funded by the Malawi government.

According to Ministry of Labour, Malawi’s overall unemployment rate is at 23 percent, and 21 per cent of the figure is that of the youth.

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