At least 60 Zimbabwean women are feared still missing in the Middle East after being lured there on the pretext of lucrative jobs in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.The Government is frantically trying to locate 50 women in Kuwait and 10 in Saudi Arabia. Early this year, Government facilitated the repatriation of 150 women who were held as virtual slaves in Middle Eastern countries.
In an interview last week, the chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs Kindness Paradza said Parliament had recommended that the Kuwait Embassy in Harare halt issuing visas to Zimbabweans seeking employment as domestic workers in the Middle Eastern country.
“One of the recommendations that was approved in Parliament was for the Kuwait Embassy in Zimbabwe not to issue visas to domestic workers,” he said.
“The latest we know is that 50 women and girls are unaccounted for in Kuwait and in Saudi Arabia there are 10 whose whereabouts are unknown.
“The Government has so far aided the repatriation of about 150 women out of more than 200 that were reported to be working under tough conditions in some Arab countries.
“What we are rooting for is for Government to send a team to engage authorities in both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.”
Government has set up a special fund to assist stranded Zimbabweans in the Middle East to return home.
Secretary for Foreign Affairs Ambassador Joey Bimha last week said;
“These women are coming in groups and we have been working with the Ministry of Public Service and Social Welfare. Funds are available and the women who need to come home will be brought home. We will not countenance a scenario where a woman is stranded and cannot come home because of a lack of funds.”
The fund was set as part of recommendations by a Parliamentary delegation that visited Kuwait in May. Some of the recommendations include an order stopping police from clearing Zimbabwean women without relevant educational or professional qualifications so that they cannot apply for work visas in the Middle East.
Efforts to get a comment from Kuwait’s Embassy in Harare were fruitless by the time of publication. Over 200 women were reportedly stranded in Kuwait since June 2015, after being offered lucrative jobs, only to have their passports withheld on arrival in the Middle East and pressed into service under slave-like conditions.
Many were sold to employers for US$2 500 and above, and lived under house arrest, were beaten, denied decent meals and sleeping arrangements and worked long hours. Some were forced into prostitution.