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For many years, Mozambique has been held with high regard especially by the donor community. The country has done well on basic poverty reduction. It seems to be right on course in achieving its Millennium Development Goals in the area of reducing child mortality and improving the health of mothers. It has also made significant progress in eradicating extreme poverty.
All these are not easy wins especially when one considers that Mozambique had been plagued with years of civil conflict. For it to get a sustainable economy, it needs to work a little harder. Mozambican political culture does not put the interests of the people first; instead it protects the few elites.
This has resulted in the erosion of state institutions supposed to provide service delivery and maintain the rule of law. They are therefore, not fit to carry out the functions they were intended to do. As a result many societal ills have emerged. The biggest menace being the nation being used as a highway for human trafficking.
Human trafficking in Mozambique
Human traffickers have taken advantage of the weak laws in Mozambique especially adoption laws to traffic children out of the country. In recent years, adoption cases have increased in Mozambique where people apply to adopt children by going through all the legal procedures only to end up abusing the kids once they are in their custody.
The government was prompted to reconsider giving people adoption rights following the increase in foreigners applying to adopt children especially orphans. Cases have been reported where kids have disappeared after being adopted. Katerere in 2009 argued that this becomes worse especially when the government lacks the capacity to keep an eye on the lives of these kids outside the country (Katerere 1).
Trafficking through adoption
Trafficking of children through adoption is just a tip of the iceberg, human trafficking through local crime syndicates is the most prominent trafficking crime committed in Mozambique. Despite the fact that efforts have been made to curb cross-border trafficking as seen in the media, this has proved to be a menace that will not go away.
The reason for this goes back to the fact the government in place has failed to put the interests of its people as a priority. Poverty and a culture that allows young girls to be married off at tender ages, lack of law provisions that can prosecute human traffickers, are some of the reasons that have led to the thriving of this vice in Mozambique (UNESCO 41).
Many of those who are trafficked come from poor areas. Parents are easily deceived that their children will be given well paying jobs to propel them out of poverty. Mozambique is not only a source of people who are trafficked; it is also serves as an international transit point for human trafficking.
People from African countries, and recently from Asia, are trafficked via Mozambique into South Africa, the hub of human trafficking (Women & Law 1).
Trafficking syndicate exposed
In January this year, media reports indicated that the Mozambican police had arrested members of a gang known for trafficking women from the country to South Africa. The police detained the three members of the gang just after they had handed over a young lady to the supposed buyers who were preparing to take her to South Africa.
This only happened after efforts from the Media24 group that owns “City Press”, a paper in Johannesburg paid off. The “Media24” journalists possed as potential buyers who were interested in buying young girls from Mozambique; these girls are usually lured with promises of jobs especially in the hotel business, but once in South Africa, they get the shock of their lives when they are forced to work as prostitutes (Mozambique 1).
It emerged that the syndicate consisted of about fifteen Mozambicans and some Chinese citizens. The person given the duty of transporting these girls claimed that he had police friends who allowed him to go through the borders without any obstacles (South Africa 1).
The trafficking syndicate had gone as far as China, whereby the gang was trafficking to South Africa girls from China. The girls from China came to Mozambique in cargo ships. The boss of the syndicate was a rich man residing in Maputo. All these happen with a law in existence set up specifically to deal with such cases.
The law set up in 2008 to protect witnesses, guaranteeing them anonymity and also penalizing those engaged in human trafficking has not helped at all (Human Traffickers 1). The question therefore is, why is the authority not using the law?
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The answer lies with the fact that human trafficking is a form of organized crime that involves people of influence in almost all the sectors of the Mozambican economy (Focus 1). It is therefore, not a question of a lack of laws, but because there are other interests to be protected (USAID 1).
Also in January this year, a Pakistan international was arrested in Maputo with seventy illegal immigrants. It is reported that on January 18th, an Ethiopian plane arrived with Bangladeshi nationals who were detained at the airport after it was discovered that they had forged visas.
However, the same day Pakistanis and Bangladeshis were released, they went straight to Pakistan and a man who was arrested in connection to this issue (Focus 1). A tip to the place saw a search at the residence uncover many Asians lumped in rooms. This was a clear indication that the men and women in those rooms were on there way to another country most likely South Africa.
All the immigrants and the owner of the residence were arrested. However, later reports indicated that the main suspect in this syndicate had escaped under unclear circumstances (Pakistani 1). It was not immediately ascertained how he escaped (Human Traffickers 1).
Illegal immigrants come from many parts of the world. Mozambican police has detained people from “Somalia, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Bangladeshi, Tanzania, Rwanda, Angola, China, and many other countries” (Katerere 1). Most of these people as indicated, flee conflicts or economic hardships in their countries, they are usually dropped by boat, ships, and even by air (Gender Protocol 1).
Those detained are usually taken to detention campus, but again these are so porous that these people eventually end up in the hand of human traffickers. It is said that the high cost of getting passports make people to seek cheap alternative means leading then into the hands of traffickers who exploit them for their own gains (Human trafficking 1).
Although on the outside Mozambique looks promising with its policies, however, these are only attracting donors. The more underlying issues may not be seen, but they are real. Mozambican leaders should work with other governments especially that of South Africa to find a lasting solution to this menace.
It should not only address the simplicity of illegal movement; it should also look for ways of empowering its citizens economically so that they avoid travelling to other countries in search of economic fortunes.
Focus. Focus: Human Rights And The Un: Mozambique fights human trafficking. English Aljazeera, 2008. Web.
Gender Protocol. Porous borders allow human trafficking to flourish. Gender Links, 2010. Web.
Human Traffickers. Mozambique: 7 suspected human traffickers arrested. Zimbio, 2010. Web.
Human trafficking. Mozambique. Human Trafficking, 2009. Web.
Katerere, Fred. Human traffickers thrive in Mozambique. Pound Puplegacy, 2009. Web.
Mozambique. Mozambique: Network of Human Traffickers Exposed. African Crisis, 2010. Web.
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South Africa. Open borders for child traffickers. Queen, 2010. Web.
UNESCO. Human Trafficking in Mozambique: Root Causes and Recommendations. UNESCO, 2006. Web.
USAID. Case Study: New Law Targets Trafficking in Mozambique Challenge. US aid 2009. Web.
Women & Law. Trafficking of Women & the 2010 World Cup: the risk of an increase in sexual exploitation connected to trafficking. South Africa, 2009. Web.