The government maintained inadequate victim protection efforts. Due to officials’ continued conflation of trafficking and migrant smuggling, national statistics on trafficking victim identification and protection remained difficult to obtain and verify. The government identified 199 potential victims during the reporting period, compared with 17 victims identified in 2019; however, it was unclear if traffickers had exploited these individuals in sex trafficking or forced labor. Of the 199 potential victims identified, 166 were male and 33 were female; 73 were adults and 126 were children; 22 victims were Zambian nationals, while the other 177 were foreign nationals from Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Burundi, Malawi, Rwanda, Kenya, Somalia, and Zimbabwe. The government identified the majority of potential victims—140 Ethiopians—in two instances after police received reports from the local community. The government repatriated three Zambian victims identified in Algeria, Belgium, and South Africa, compared with two repatriations from South Africa in 2019. Observers reported the Zambia Police Service and Department of Social Welfare jointly conducted raids in brothels where families forced their children to engage in commercial sex; however, the government did not report identifying any victims or initiating any investigations based on such efforts. While use of the national referral mechanism reportedly increased in 2020, some front-line officials still neglected to use these methods to identify and refer victims to care, especially in cases involving foreign nationals or individuals in commercial sex. The government, in partnership with an international organization, continued to disseminate an updated standard victim identification form to better guide front-line officials in proactively identifying trafficking victims; however, law enforcement officers did not use forms currently available.
The government partnered with international organizations to offer routine assistance to potential victims, including basic needs, medical care, and counseling; however, the government did not provide all services across Zambia. The Ministry of Community Development and Social Services operated one 40-person shelter in Luapula Province and other shelters in Central and Western Provinces. Shelters were typically designated for survivors of gender-based violence or child abuse but were made available to trafficking victims; most shelters only assisted women and children, but some accommodated adult male victims of trafficking. Shelters across the country, especially in rural areas outside Lusaka and Copperbelt Provinces, continued to lack available space, training for shelter staff, education opportunities, and integration services due to low capacity and training of victim support officers, scarce resources, and lack of funding. With assistance from an international organization, the government developed standard operating procedures and shelter guidelines; however, the guidelines were awaiting final approval by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) at the end of the reporting period. The government provided 282,846 Zambian kwacha ($13,380) to support four shelters in 2020, compared with 50,000 kwacha ($2,370) provided to one shelter in 2019.
Authorities continued to penalize victims for crimes their traffickers compelled them to commit. While the government reportedly increased efforts to screen potential victims of trafficking, it did not do so consistently in cases that appeared to involve smuggling; the government detained, charged, or deported individuals who reportedly consented to being smuggled, including potential trafficking victims, without screening those individuals for trafficking indicators. In some cases involving foreign nationals, the government prosecuted potential victims for immigration violations after they provided evidence against their alleged trafficker; the government also reportedly charged potential sex trafficking victims—adults and children—with prostitution violations, rather than investigating their trafficker. Given the limited sheltering options and lengthy court processes, the government regularly held potential victims in detention facilities for extended periods of time, often alongside traffickers; authorities often did not separate children from the adult population. Of the 199 potential victims the government identified in 2020, the government reported 140 of them were placed in jails, correctional facilities, or detention. The government rarely provided opportunities for victim testimony via video or written statements and made no proactive efforts to keep victims’ identities confidential or prevent re-traumatization. The Department of Immigration provided regularization of immigration status and temporary residency for all foreign victims in accordance with the 2008 trafficking law. Regularization of stay was not dependent on the victim’s cooperation with law enforcement, and the government offered legal alternatives to the removal of victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution; however, the government did not report applying this alternative to foreign victims during the reporting period. The lack of availability of interpreters continued to be a barrier to providing timely and comprehensive care for victims, and victims often paid a fee to obtain interpretation services, despite the government reporting interpretation services were available free of charge.