COS Nightmare:The Dark Side of Zimbabwean Care Workers in the UK
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COS Nightmare:The Dark Side of Zimbabwean Care Workers in the UK

Sibanda was convicted after a trial and was told he must serve at least 10 years in prison before being considered for parole. Credit: West Midlands Police

The ugly reality of fraud and theft within the Certificate of Sponsorship (COS) scheme in the UK has led to dire consequences for many Zimbabweans, with some even facing death.

In a recent tragic incident, five people were arrested in Barnsley, UK, following the fatal stabbing of a 26-year-old Zimbabwean man, Lazarus Makono, on February 21. Makono, who worked as a healthcare assistant, was found with severe injuries after police responded to a call at a house on Cooperative Street. He had been targeted by numerous individuals he had allegedly scammed through the COS scheme, taking millions of pounds from desperate job seekers looking to move to the UK.

Among those arrested was another Zimbabwean, Terrance Mlotshwa from Ripley Avenue in Derby, who has been charged with Makono’s murder. South Yorkshire police are holding another 27-year-old man on suspicion of murder, while a 32-year-old man and two women aged 20 and 25 were arrested and later released on bail for allegedly assisting an offender. All these individuals were reportedly involved in the fraudulent COS dealings.

In another case, a person was sentenced to 15 years in prison for raping a severely disabled person after arriving in the UK on a COS scheme. Edson Munyikwa, who blamed stress and frustration for his crime, was convicted of this heinous act, which led to the victim undergoing a surgery-induced abortion.

The police have also reported several arrests for drug and substance abuse among Zimbabweans who came to the UK through the COS scheme. Many of these individuals cite the stressful conditions imposed by those who brought them to the UK as a significant factor in their behavior.

John Tengwere was banned from driving after being caught with alcohol above the legal limit, highlighting the increasing number of Zimbabweans involved in various infractions. Additionally, Khumbulani Sibanda was sentenced to 15 years for raping a child under the age of 13, further tarnishing the community’s reputation.

The distressing situation has led to Zimbabweans being treated differently due to their behavior. A couple was arrested for human trafficking and modern-day slavery after conning several Zimbabweans with false promises of work in the UK. They escaped to Zimbabwe shortly after being granted bail, and British police are now pursuing them.

Modern slavery is surging in social care since the UK government relaxed immigration rules to fill thousands of vacancies, with many Zimbabwean nationals falling victim to exploitation. Reports indicate that many Zimbabwean workers brought in through the COS scheme are living in squalid conditions and receiving only a fraction of their promised pay.

Unseen, a charity combating modern slavery, has reported a significant rise in cases involving modern slavery, with many linked to the care sector. These cases include financial or physical control, debt bondage, being tied to accommodation, and having passports impounded. Sexual abuse allegations, where business owners demand sexual favors from their victims, have also become rampant.

Tracy, a Zimbabwean who came to the UK in 2023 through COS, is now pregnant by her boss, who has allegedly abused multiple victims. Many victims fear retaliation and further exploitation, preventing them from seeking help.

Melanie Weatherby, co-chair of the Care Association Alliance, highlighted that many Zimbabwean care workers brought to the UK on the sponsored visa scheme are left without work and destitute, often scammed or misled about job availability.

Dame Sara Thornton, the UK’s Anti-Slavery Commissioner, emphasized the need for better protection and fair wages for all care workers, urging collaborative efforts to prevent exploitation. Gavin Edwards, Unison’s head of social care, condemned the increasing exploitation fueled by hostile government rhetoric towards overseas staff.

A Home Office spokesperson reiterated the commitment to combating modern slavery and supporting victims, stating that efforts are ongoing to bring perpetrators to justice and ensure comprehensive support for victims.

Source: Herald

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