Community Welfare Assistants and community members during the Focus Group Discussions in Sesheke. Photo: UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

IOM Contributes to Prevention of Human Trafficking and Unsafe Migration in Zambia through Finalization of National Communications Strategy

IOM, as part of the United Nations Joint Programme on Social Protection  (2016-2018), is assisting the Government of Zambia to develop and implement coherent ‘policies and practices that protect and promote the livelihoods and welfare of people suffering from critical levels of poverty and deprivation and/or are vulnerable to risks and shocks,’ (2014 National Social Protection Policy).

The Joint Programme covers technical assistance to support the implementation of the National Social Protection Policy (NSPP), in line with its 2014-2018 implementation plan. As part of implementation of the Joint Programme, IOM is working with relevant government stakeholders and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to support the prevention of violence, exploitation and abuse, with a focus on addressing trafficking and exploitation, through prevention and protection activities.  

In 2017, IOM supported the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services (MCDSS) to review and update the 2009-2011 National Strategic Communication Plan for the Prevention of Human Trafficking in Zambia (Break the Chain of Human Trafficking), and to integrate mixed migration issues into the Communication Plan. In close coordination with the Technical Working Group on Human Trafficking and Mixed Migration and the MCDSS, this Communication Strategy on Human Trafficking and Mixed Migration, themed ‘Know Before you Go’, was finalized in December 2017 ready for launch.

A baseline assessment is currently underway to establish the level of understanding and awareness of the issues reflected in the Mixed Migration and Human Trafficking Communication Strategy in the three districts that have been selected for the pilot phase. The baseline will inform the roll-out of the Strategy. The roll-out, which will take place in 2018, will focusing on safe migration messages and resilience to the dangers of human trafficking.

The findings from the assessment, which took place in Sesheke, Nakonde and Lusaka, highlight the following:

  • The border towns of Sesheke and Nakonde are both source and transit districts for migrants moving in what are known as ‘mixed migration flows’. These include victims of human trafficking, refugees and asylum seekers, as well as irregular migrants, many of whom need protective support. Movements of people (unregulated) is rife, owing in part to the porous borders. The districts, being a border districts, presents migration dynamics that are exacerbated by high poverty levels, limited employment opportunities, high illiteracy levels, limited information on safe migration, challenges in accessing permits/border passes and protection services, among others;
  • Generally, the communities are well-aware of human trafficking and unsafe migration within the districts, including associated dangers/risks. The communities are also aware of the need for and processes for reporting of cases but were, however, skeptical to follow these due to fear – traffickers are perceived to be powerful people and it is perceived to be risky to report them;
  • Concerns on lack of convictions of traffickers and migrant smugglers has also demotivated the communities from reporting or pursuing cases in the districts as it is commonly held that cases are quashed and never reach the courts of law for justice to be served. The communities expressed that improved prosecution of the perpetrators would serve as a deterrent to other traffickers and would encourage people to come forward to report cases.

With the foregoing findings, the baseline assessment recommended that these communities are also potentially destination and transit points and therefore there is need to build the capacity of the existing community structures such as the Community Welfare Assistants  (CWACs) so that they are better equipped to identify, assist, refer and sensitize residents on the dangers of human trafficking and of irregular migration. Therefore, targeted information and awareness-raising in such locations would significantly contribute towards improving consciousness within the community and participants believe that this will ultimately reduce the risk of human trafficking and unsafe migration in the future.

The Communication Strategy on Mixed Migration and Human Trafficking will be launched in early January 2018 in Sesheke District and will be followed by the campaign roll-out, which will include drama performances at the main markets, road shows and community meetings, and distribution of information materials.  This will compliment other existing counter-human trafficking and mixed migration programming that IOM Zambia facilitates, including capacity building for officials to detect, refer and respond to cases.

IOM is grateful to its partners in the United Nations Joint Programme on Social Protection (ILO, IOM, FAO, WFP and UNICEF), and the financial contributions of the following Cooperating Partners, without whom the interventions would not have been possible: Irish Aid, the United Kingdom Department for International Development, the Government of Sweden and the Government of Finland.

[1] The United Nations Joint Programme on Social Protection is a combined effort of  International Labor Organization (ILO), International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Programmme (FAO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).