Save the Children repatriates migrant child

Wednesday 16 August 2017

The Prison walls are intimidatingly tall above the ground, an eight meter tower coiled with barbed wire along its top length.

We discover the wall has been erected to ensure that offenders do not stray beyond the confines of the wall. This is the scenario we find when we arrive at Katete District correctional centre. However, we are not here to visit a prisoner but a 15 year old Malawian girl who is illegally in the country. 15 year old Ruth is here not because she is a criminal. She is being kept at this recreational centre because the Department of Social Welfare in the district does not have safe houses for people in her situation. 

Ruth is an illegal immigrant from neighbouring Malawi. She says she recently migrated into Zambia to look for work because life was hard back home. Ruth, who comes from Lilongwe District says she was lured into Zambia by an older friend of hers who promised her a good life on the other side of the boarder.

Ruth at Katete recreation center shortly before her repatriation

“My friend asked me to accompany her into Zambia because life was easier here. I agreed because there was a lot of poverty at my grandmother’s home where I lived” she says.

Ruth says she didn’t even realise she was in Zambia but only observed that the currency which was being used had changed. Unfortunately, Ruth did not find the easy life she was looking for and ended up in prostitution. She says she would wonder in the night and patronise the streets and night clubs looking for ‘clients’. Eventually, she came across the Zambian authorities who apprehended her and put her in the Katete correctional centre for safe keeping.

Save the Children heard about the girl’s ordeal, intervened and organised her safe repatriation back to Malawi through the departments of Social Welfare and Immigration.  As she was being repatriated, Ruth said she was thankful to Save the Children for giving her chance to go back home after being apprehended by the Zambian Immigration.

Ruth on her way to Malawi

Meanwhile, in neighbouring Chadiza District, 16 year old Sylvia almost got abducted into Malawi in very mysterious circumstances. She explains that earlier this year she was abducted from her hut (in M’shóka village) by a Witch Doctor whilst she was sleeping at night. She says the witch doctor (who was visiting her village from neighbouring Malawi) sneaked into her hut and placed some charms in her hand which hypnotised her.  

Sylvia narrating her ordeal in Chadiza

After he placed charms in my hand, I could not comprehend what was going on. In fact I was in a trance and only remember gaining consciousness in the darkness of the night, somewhere in the bush” she says.

She says she remembers, being led along the path by the Witch doctor who had apparently also tagged her friend along.

Sylvia explains that as the witch doctor proceeded with her friend, he suddenly ordered her to wait at a certain location, failure to which he would attack her.

She says this is when she gathered courage to run for her life, eventually arriving at her village after an hour.

She later learnt that her friend had been abducted into Malawi.

Today Sylvia is back home and is thankful that Save the Children has plans of taking her back to school. She says this ordeal had disturbed her education plans but that she was now ready to peruse her dreams.

More about the Children on the Move Programme

Currently, Save the Children Zambia is implementing a three years’ project entitled “Children on the Move” which is targeting children at risk of violence through migration, families and communities with children at risk of irregular migration.

State actors and traditional and religious leaders that would influence the protection of unaccompanied and separated children.

As part of the process of implementing the project, Save the children commissioned a mapping and review assignment to help the organisation understand the policies and legislation that are available in Zambia and its neighbouring countries to protect children who are migrants, unaccompanied and separated children, refugees, asylum seekers, economic migrants, victims of trafficking.