Zambia Toolkit to Identify Migrant Protection Needs

By Annie Lane

The proper identification of migrants with specific protection needs is critical for ensuring the protection of their basic human rights. Under an IOM-led programme component, Zambia’s ‘Protection Tools for Vulnerable Migrants’ was developed. These ‘Tools’ are intended to strengthen border officials and service providers’ awareness and understanding of international, regional and national legal instruments and set clear guidance for identifying, referring and providing assistance to migrants in need.

United Nations agencies in Zambia have come together to design a joint programme to protect people on the move: refugees, asylum seekers, victims of trafficking, stranded migrants, and unaccompanied/separated minors – the most vulnerable of the vulnerable. These suffer human rights violations ranging from physical violence, to sexual and labour exploitation.  Zambia is a source, destination and transit point for trafficking in persons.

In June 2014, the Government of Zambia and UN partners held the 4th National Symposium on Human Trafficking, during which then Vice President of the Republic of Zambia, Dr. Guy Scott, officially launched the Tools.

The Toolkit includes: a Profiling Form for identifying migrants with protection needs; a National Referral Mechanism to guide actors on the provision of protection assistance, from meeting basic needs through to finding lasting solutions for each individual migrant (see figure 3 below); and Guidelines, to ensure minimum international, regional and national standards for protection assistance are met. The Tools are now available for download on the IOM Zambia Website ( 

Since this launch, IOM Zambia has trained officials from key government departments as trainers in the use of these Tools. Through its Direct Assistance Programme, which is supported by the IOM Development Fund and the European Union, IOM provides guidance to both trainers and trainees as these begin implementation.

This increased capability of government officials and other actors to identify, assess and refer migrants in need of protection is resulting in higher case referral statistics, and has given migrant stories in Zambia happier endings.  Here are some of these stories*:

A Horror Story of Benevolence Turned to Sexual Violence

Yolande, a fruit seller in the city of Lubumbashi, was approached by a customer who introduced himself as George. George said he wanted to help her, and offered her a job in a clothing boutique in South Africa. Yolande was reluctant at first, but George was persistent, and seemed well off, so after several days Yolande agreed to accept his offer. George promised to ‘arrange everything’, and one Saturday they crossed the border together into Zambia in his private car.

Once in Zambia, George booked a hotel room where he and Yolande stayed for several days. During this time George was very kind to Yolande. After nearly a week in the hotel, George told Yolande that he had a few business matters to take care of and would be gone for several days, but that he would return soon to take her to South Africa.

Soon after George left, Yolande heard a knock on the door of the hotel room. When she opened the door a man was there who told her that he was George’s friend and that George had said he could stay in the room for the night. Since George had booked the room, Yolande felt she couldn’t refuse. That night the man asked Yolande to have sex with him; when she refused, he raped her. The next day, another man arrived and also raped her. Over the next five days, Yolande was raped by at least ten different men. Yolande feared escaping as she did not know who she could trust.

Eventually she decided to run away. When she got to the main street she came to a church, where she was referred to the local Police Victim Support Unit (VSU). VSU, in collaboration with the Department of Social Welfare arranged for Yolande to be taken to a safe shelter, where she was given medical assistance and other care. The Police contacted IOM for assistance to trace Yolande’s family at home. She has since safely returned home, and is receiving continued care. She has now returned to school and is planning on studying to become a social worker to help other who may find themselves in situations like hers.

Wanted Child, Unwanted Child 

Irene is a Malawian girl who is 15 years old. She grew up with her grandmother as she was still very young when her mother left for Zambia.

Irene’s grandmother did what she could to provide for Irene’s needs, with her limited income. In 2010 Irene received a letter from her mother saying that Irene should come to Zambia to live with her. Her mother explained that life was good in Zambia and that Irene would be able to go to school when she arrived there. Irene was very excited about being reunited with her mother, who she hadn’t seen for many years.

She packed her belongings and set off for Zambia, eager to see what her new life would hold.  However, just a few months after arriving, Irene’s mother became unwell and passed away.

After her mother’s death Irene continued to live with her stepfather. However, she was always treated differently from her half-brothers and sisters, who were all in school. Irene had not attended school since arriving in Zambia, but rather had to help around the house and looked after the young children in the home. Irene often requested that her stepfather send her to school, but to no avail.

About 18-months after her mother’s death, Irene’s step-father became angry and threw her out of the house, saying that there was no longer room for her there, telling her that she was not welcome and that since they were not even related, he had no obligation to take care of her. Not knowing where to go, Irene found herself on the streets. After three nights, Musonda, a Zambian woman, Musonda, gave her food and took her in. The next day, Musonda brought Irene to the Department of Social Welfare, where she was  referred to the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), a local shelter provider, which also provided her with counselling. While there, Irene told counsellors that she wanted to go back to her grandmother in Malawi. 

YWCA contacted IOM for assistance. IOM immediately worked with the Departments of Social Welfare in Zambia and in Malawi, as well as with the UNICEF, to assess  the feasibility of Irene’s returning home. All eventually agreed that it would be in Irene’s best interest to return home, and that she should receive counselling and reintegration support from the Department of Social Welfare and their local partners.

Through IOM’s assistance, Irene was able to return home safely via a dignified voluntary return process. Since then, Irene has gone back to school. IOM ensures that her basic needs are met by providing support to her grandmother.


*Case studies based on true stories, but identifying details have been changed