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Government to engage US on visa suspension

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By Jameson Chauluka:

SHUMBA—We will respond using diplomatic channels

The government has said it would engage its United States of America (USA) counterparts on its decision to suspend visa sponsorship on domestic workers for Malawian diplomats.

USA suspended the A-3 visas for the next two years following a disagreement which arose between Malawi former diplomat to the US, Jane Kambalame, and her domestic worker Fainess Lipenga, over her wages in 2007.

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Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Rejoice Shumba, said USA government had notified them of the suspension.

“The government of the US has notified us of their decision to suspend the visas, but we are banging heads. The government will respond using diplomatic channels,” she said.

Lipenga began working as a maid for the Kambalame family in Malawi before her boss was made diplomat in USA in 2004 and they left together.

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BBC and Reuters reports say Lipenga left the US home of Kambalame in 2007 claiming that she had been trafficked to the US and was being made to work seven days a week for less than $50 (K390) per day.

In 2016, a US court ordered that Kambalame, who is back to Malawi after working in the US and Zimbabwe, should pay Lipenga $1.1 million (K700 million) compensation after she had engaged lawyers, Jones Day.

But Kambalame is reportedly yet to pay the money. She Tuesday refused to comment on the matter.

Reuters and BBC have been quoting the US State Department, saying it informed US Congress on Wednesday about its decision to suspend Malawi’s A-3 visa privileges, which allow foreign diplomats to bring domestic workers to America.

The suspension coincided with the release of a Human Trafficking Report for 2019.

Around 400,000 people are believed to be in some form of slavery in the US, according to human rights group Walk Free Foundation.

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