Harare – President Robert Mugabe’s government has warned Zimbabweans to be “extremely circumspect” before accepting job offers abroad after reports that up to 200 women have been trafficked to Kuwait and forced into domestic slavery.
“Anything which seems to be too good to be true cannot be true,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Sunday.
Fifteen Zimbabwean women have so far been brought home from Kuwait, the statement from the ministry said.
Press reports earlier this month said seven Zimbabweans had appeared in court in Harare over allegations they were human traffickers who promised young women paid jobs as waitresses or housemaids in Kuwait.
When the women – and there may have been up to 200 of them in recent months – arrived in Kuwait, they found they were “virtually household slaves” according to website NewZimbabwe.com.
The state-controlled Sunday Mail last week spoke to one of the stranded women via Whatsapp. The woman told the paper that an agent was demanding $3 000 from her family before she would be allowed to return home.
“We are not being given enough food here and we are harassed and beaten all the time,” the woman told the paper.
She said she traveled to Kuwait on January 28.
Trafficking agents are believed to be recruiting women in hair salons while they get their hair done.
Zimbabwe’s difficult economic situation and high unemployment rate means that some locals are keen to seek opportunities outside the country.
The Zimbabwe Independent reported last week on the chaotic scenes at Beitbridge on the border with South Africa, where thousands are reported to be queuing on a daily basis to cross to work or shop in Zimbabwe’s wealthier southern neighbour.
Mugabe’s government is itself working on a scheme to send thousands of unemployed graduates to South Sudan. But the expat workers may have to hand over up to 25% of their salaries to the authorities back in Zimbabwe, according to state media last month.