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RGM Airport a human trafficking hotspot

Ariel view of Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport

CASES of human trafficking at Zimbabwe’s main airport are rising amid allegations that syndicates made up of security agents and political heavyweights are facilitating the illegal entry into the country for foreign nationals enroute to South Africa.

Respect Gono, the Immigration Department director-general, told The Standard that the country had no “global management system” to track crimes such as human trafficking and this made Zimbabwe a favourite hunting ground for traffickers.

Gono was reacting to enquiries from this publication after state security details at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport expressed concern that agencies such as the Central Intelligence Organisation were ignoring reports of serious immigration breaches at the port of entry.

A Military Intelligence Department (MID) operative who was deployed at the airport was recently arrested for allegedly conniving with immigration officers to facilitate the illegal entry of four Indian officials into the country, source said.

The security officials said the incident was a tip of the iceberg as the new MID team had replaced another one that was moved from the airport for allegedly working with human trafficking syndicates.

 “The Indian nationals were intercepted by MID and the taxi driver, who was transporting them implicated a member of MID who was stationed at the airport,” the source said.

“People involved in this brag that nothing will happen to them as they have the protection of their bosses.”

Four immigration officials were arrested for their alleged involvement in the scandal.

Gono said mainly Pakistanis and Ethiopians were giving the department a headache.

“We have Pakistan and Ethiopian nationals mainly being trafficked into the country, giving us problems,” she said.

“The majority of them are going to South Africa in search of greener pastures.

“South Africa has stringent measures, so Ethiopians prefer to come via Zimbabwe.

“We currently have no global management system, which can track these activities.

“But we are expecting to launch it soon.

“When that system is now in place you will see things improving.”

The United States annual Trafficking in Persons Report in 2022 said Zimbabwe had failed to convict any traffickers or amend its anti-trafficking law to criminalise all forms of trafficking.

As a result, the country remained on the US State Department’s Tier 2 Watch List for the second year in a row, as the government did not fully comply with the 2020 Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards.

Last month, Zanu PF Mashonaland West aspiring legislator, Pax Muringazuva was arrested on allegations of human trafficking after he allegedly assisted eight Pakistanis to enter the country illegally.

Muringazuva allegedly harboured the Pakistan nationals at his Mabelreign house in Harare with the intent to traffic them to South Africa.

Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said he was not aware of reports of human trafficking at the airport.

“This is the first time for me to hear that there is a problem of human trafficking at the airport,” Nyathi said.

“Firstly, I want to find out and secondly, if there are such reports then we should have those people who have the information come forward and report so that investigations can be conducted.”

Zimbabwe’s porous borders are reportedly used by foreign nationals from all over Africa to cross into South Africa.

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