According to the UN, the discovery was made during routine monitoring of trafficking routes by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Malawian Police Service.
The UN noted that efforts are underway to dismantle human trafficking networks operating within the Dzaleka Refugee Camp, identify and rescue victims, and prosecute those responsible.
“The situation was much worse than we first envisaged,” says UNODC’s Maxwell Matewere, who initially visited the camp in October 2020, where he trained camp staff and law enforcement officers on how to detect and respond to trafficking cases.
“I even witnessed a kind of Sunday market, where people come to buy children who were then exploited in situations of forced labour and prostitution,” he adds.
UNODC coached and mentored 28 camp officials and law enforcement officers who are now involved in victim identification and trafficking investigation, and will train colleagues at police stations and border crossing points.
Over 90 victims of human trafficking have been identified and rescued since the training and implementation of new anti-trafficking procedures.
The majority of those rescued are Ethiopian men aged 18 to 30. There are also girls and women aged 12 to 24 from Ethiopia, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Malawi hosed 52,678 persons of concern (PoCs) to UNHCR as of December 2021, according to the UN refugee agency.
The majority of them live in the Dzaleka refugee camp in the Dowa district, 41 kilometers from the capital Lilongwe.
Dzaleka is a long-term camp with 300 new arrivals each month (62 percent are from the DRC, 19 percent Burundi, seven percent Rwanda and two percent from other nationalities).
Women account for 45 percent of PoCs, while children account for 48 percent. The camp was originally intended to house 10,000 to 12,000 PoCs, but it now houses over 52,000 people.
The total PoC population is comprised of 21,530 refugees, 30,910 asylum seekers, and 238 others of concern, resulting in a protracted refugee situation.
According to the UN, the protracted nature of the camp settlement and encampment policy raises the risks of its inhabitants to infectious diseases, protection, and self-sufficiency.
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