Desperate for work, Kamikazi trusted “agents” to find her a job. Instead, she worked unpaid as a domestic servant in Kuwait. Photo: Aimable Twahirwa / IPSKIGALI, Rwanda, January 5th (IPS) – When Kamikazi * from Gisagara, a district in southern Rwanda, had to quit her job last year due to COVID-19, she was desperate for another job.
A former employee at the food company where Kamikazi once worked introduced them to “agents.” They assured her that she would find a decent job in the Middle East, but little did she know that her colleague had handed her over into the arms of human traffickers.
The next day, the 22-year-old, passport in hand, turned to the agent, who asked her to pay around $ 300 as an agency fee.
“One day I got a call from an agent who said I had to go to Kenya to get my Kuwait visa,” Kamikazi told IPS.
On the border between Tanzania and Kenya, the young woman met other members of the human trafficking syndicate who helped her get to Kenya unnoticed before she drove to the Kenyan capital Nairobi by road.
In Nairobi, she and the “agents” hid a house with several other young women of different African nationalities. Driven by fear and despair, she continued the ruse until the group finally boarded a plane to Kuwait.
“I was told that domestic workers from our region (East Africa) are valued more highly in Kuwait than domestic workers from other countries,” she says.
Kamikazi remembers her arrival. The traffickers took their passports and detained them and several other young women in an apartment.
“We believed them because I hoped the new opportunity would help change my life for the better,” she told IPS.
However, their hopes for a better future were soon dashed.
She was “employed” by a family but found herself locked up and unpaid. And when it suited them, their employers would swap domestic workers among themselves.
“I did not have a valid travel document and was treated like an animal being traded from one family to another,” she said. To make matters worse, she realized that her ex-colleague, whom she believed was a close friend, was responsible for her situation.
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), domestic workers are exempt from labor law in most countries in the Middle East, so they have no social, health or legal protection.
Domestic workers suffer from particularly difficult conditions and their situation is all the more fragile given that most countries do not have laws regulating their employment, the report said. Since they are exempt from labor law provisions, no written employment contracts are required.
Human traffickers are often subjected to sexual exploitation, forced labor and slavery, and organ harvesting and sales.
The Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) has warned that thousands of people are falling victim to traffickers who pose as recruiters. Vulnerable young women looking for greener pastures fall victim to these traffickers.
Recent estimates by UN Women show that while exact numbers of victims are difficult to establish, the vast majority of trafficked victims are women and girls, and three out of four are trafficked for sexual exploitation.
Recent cases of mistreatment and abuse of maids by their employers in the Middle East have shed light on the hidden and unregulated conditions of domestic workers.
In many cases, these women work illegally, which means they have little protection if their employers abuse them.
With tears in his eyes, Kamikazi remembers her first hours with her new colleague.
“After confiscating my passport, I was told to stay home (…) I was in a cage,” said Kamikazi.
A typical work day started at 4 a.m. and ended at midnight or later. There were no days off and there was no going out unless the family went somewhere.
“In addition to cooking, cleaning and washing my clothes, I also had to look after the pets (…) I wanted to flee because I was abused by my employer, but had no idea where to turn,” she said.
While the results from the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) suggest that the majority of victims are intercepted at the point of departure – either at the airport or at the country’s various border points – there are indications that there are cases of young women A transit for commercial sexual exploitation in the Gulf States is being smuggled into neighboring countries.
A law enforcement investigation in Rwanda found that at least 47 members of the local syndicate smuggled women from Rwanda to work abroad. As a result, according to court reports, 49 people, including company owners, were arrested and charged in court in 2018.
The trend shows an upward trend, with 131 human trafficking victims identified in 2020 compared to 96 victims in 2019.
Like Kamikazi, most trafficking victims are lured out of villages and towns with false promises of work abroad.
Studies have shown that children’s vulnerability increases when families are economically unstable. Traffickers hunt down such families by making false promises about a new job, higher income, better living conditions and financial support abroad.
Even though a strict anti-trafficking law applies in Rwanda, punishing trafficking in sex and human trafficking with up to 15 years in prison, RIB General Secretary Jeannot Ruhunga is convinced that human trafficking, especially of women and children, continues to be a serious challenge represented by the international community.
During the “Law Enforcement Officials and Criminal Justice Practitioners” workshop on Combating Human Trafficking with a Multi-Stakeholder Approach to Central and East Africa, the senior Rwandan police investigator found that organized human trafficking is cross-border. It is a global problem, but one that affects Central and East Africa seriously.
“The most important thing is how countries work together to address challenges in the investigation and prosecution of this cross-border crime and to strengthen cooperation and mutual support,” said Ruhunga.
According to the Directorate-General for Immigration and Emigration of Rwanda, the majority of suspected trafficking victims identified in Rwanda were from Burundi (62.7%), followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) (15%) and Rwanda (13.6%) ). ).
The National Prosecutor’s case data shows that between 2016 and 2018, most of the perpetrators were male (63%), with women still making up a significant percentage of traffickers (37%).
The study, carried out in 2019 by the Rwandan NGO Never Again Rwanda, emphasizes that effective border protection is an important part of combating human trafficking as it serves to deter criminals and identify victims.
The investigation found that Uganda, Kenya and, to a lesser extent, Tanzania are the main transit countries for human trafficking in East Africa. Uganda comes first, followed by Kenya and Tanzania as target countries for human trafficking.
Dr. Joseph Ryarasa Nkurunziza, executive director of Never Again Rwanda, told IPS that awareness and education are key to combating human trafficking in Rwanda.
“Awareness is important considering that the pandemic has made the situation worse for many vulnerable groups who are now more vulnerable to human trafficking,” said Nkurunziza
For Kamikazi, their ordeal is over. After being forced to work day and night and imprisoned at her employer’s home, she was rescued after asking for help from a businesswoman in Kuwait.
Her rescuer contacted the Rwandan embassy in Dubai.
“It seemed like my employer would not return my passport, but the Kuwait police asked them to give it to me.”
* Kamikazi’s name has been changed to protect her identity.
This is part of a series of contributions from around the world on human trafficking. The IPS coverage is supported by the Airways Aviation Group.
The Global Sustainability Network (GSN) pursues United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 8, with particular emphasis on Goal 8.7, which “takes immediate and effective action to eradicate forced labor, end modern slavery and human trafficking, and prohibit and eradicate it of the worst forms of child labor, including the recruitment and use of child soldiers, and end child labor in all its forms by 2025.
The origins of the GSN go back to the efforts of the Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders, signed on December 2, 2014, on indifference such as exploitation, forced labor, prostitution, human trafficking ”.
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