Many of you are aware that UP Zambia has spent significant time this year working on behalf of non-Zambian migrants, primarily from Ethiopia, who have been charged with the offence of “consenting to be smuggled” into Zambia. The offence carries a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison under the Anti-Human Trafficking Act. We are happy to report that as of now, most of the juveniles sentenced under this law have received Presidential pardons from His Excellency the President Edgar Lungu and have returned home. This is an immensely positive development, although there is more work to be done on behalf of juveniles and adults.
Our work on this issue has taken many forms: helping co-ordinate pro bono legal representation for juveniles and adults charged with this offence; facilitating donations; developing legal advocacy materials; and liaising with a variety of stakeholders to advocate and explain why the law is harmful not just to migrants, but Zambia as a whole.
Working on behalf of imprisoned migrants was, at first, not within our field of experience, but we embraced the issue whole-heartedly given our strong belief that all vulnerable people deserve legal representation, particularly vulnerable juveniles who are far from their homes, families and culture. While the work has at times felt overwhelming, our efforts and successes reflect the model that we seek to implement in all our work: legal representation for the vulnerable in court; targeted advocacy informed by our casework, and a collaborative approach to working with stakeholders to achieve a better justice system for everyone in Zambia. We will continue our efforts on behalf of juveniles and others charged with this offence, and look forward to a day when the offence is removed from the law.