Harsh socio-economic conditions in Zimbabwe are causing many to migrate in search of work, so that they can better provide for their families. But the dreams of those migrating can easily turn into living nightmares because of corruption. Leeroy’s* story is one such example.
Eager to find work, Leeroy told us how he had responded to an advert calling for professionals in the electrical, plumbing and carpentry field to work in Angola. He said that the recruitment company – a foreign owned firm – helped process the visas for him, and five of his colleagues, enabling them to emigrate to Angola.
After working in Angola for a month, Leeroy says he and his colleagues were suddenly informed by their employer that they had not been issued working visas, but humanitarian ones. Apparently the recruitment firm had told Leeroy that Zimbabweans are poor and would work for free food and accommodation instead of a salary.
Far away from home and without an income, it is easy to see how many people could become trapped in a cycle of dependency – becoming homeless and jobless if you refuse. In fact, Leeroy and his colleagues only managed to come back home after the intervention of the Zimbabwean embassy in Angola.
On their return to Zimbabwe they came to Transparency International – Zimbabwe’s Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre, told us their story and asked how to lodge a complaint against the recruitment company.
The centre was able to help Leeroy and his colleagues file a complaint with the office of the Chief Immigration officer against the recruitment company. They called for an investigation to be carried out to discover how and why the firm had been allowed to operate their “recruitment” freely, without any verification into their processes and operations.
The centre also helped Leeroy and his colleagues launch a criminal complaint, requiring an investigation into how the recruitment company obtained visas for aspiring emigrants.
The head of the company was taken in for questioning and the matter is currently before the courts. Leeroy and his colleagues told us that they were happy to see the case taken up by the justice system.
Through the International Organisation for Migration, Leeroy and his colleagues received donations to start a business enterprise and are now earning an income to look after their families. A lucky escape for them, but many others are not so fortunate.
*Names have been changed.