Women November 30, 2016 at 12:00 pm

Malawian Woman Held Captive in U.S. Wins Human Trafficking Case

Fredrick Ngugi | Contributor

Fredrick Ngugi November 30, 2016 at 12:00 pm

November 30, 2016 at 12:00 pm | Women

Fainess Lipenga, a Malawian woman who was smuggled to the U.S. has been awarded more than $1 million in a human trafficking case against her former employer. Photo Credit: The Maravi Post

A Malawian woman who was smuggled to the United States by a diplomat who held her hostage for three years and forced her to work long hours as a housemaid, has been awarded more than $1 million in damages in a human trafficking lawsuit against her former employer. Fairness Lipenga says she was lured by Jane Kambalame to move with her to America after she accepted a diplomatic position at the Malawian embassy in Washington D.C. in 2004, according to the Maravi Post.

Physical and Psychological Abuse

When Kambalame told her about her new position, Lipenga was enthusiastic about the move, she said, “I was so excited. She told me that I could finish my education in the United States and that she would help me find another job.”

But instead, according to the lawsuit, Lipenga was subjected to serious physical and psychological abuse.

“She [Kambalame] listened on the phone whenever I talked to my family and would disconnect it when she left the house. I was trapped,” Lipenga revealed.

Lipenga’s boss humiliated her in front of guests, threatening to deport her and forcing her to sleep in the basement alone so she wouldn’t get the rest of the family sick.

After managing to escape from her captivity in 2007, Lipenga was admitted to a hospital for tuberculosis and chronic depression.

Since it is illegal to make people work by use of force, coercion, or fear under U.S. Federal Law (18 USC 1589), she managed to get a T visa, which is set aside for victims of human trafficking. The visa allows victims to remain in the United States to assist in human trafficking investigations or prosecutions.

In 2011, Lipenga was granted permanent U.S. residency through the help of a pro bono human rights attorney.

In 2014, Lipenga filed a civil lawsuit against Kambalame in the state of Maryland, accusing Kambalame of false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

During the past two years, even though Kambalame refused to appear in court or participate in the case, the court found her guilty and ordered her to pay a fine of $1,101,345 in damages.

Lipenga’s lawyer, Lindsay Reimchussel, promised to explore all options available to ensure the judgment is enforced.

Human Trafficking in the U.S.

Human trafficking is the most common form of modern slavery in the United States with the Justice Department estimating that 14,500 to 17,500 people are trafficked in to the country annually.

The department claims that most human trafficking cases occur around international travel hubs, with large immigrant populations coming in through Texas and California.

Conversations

Must Read