PS Immigration Services Gordon Kihalangwa says the government is using Kenyan missions to protect citizens. /FILE
Kenya hub of human trafficking in East Africa – US State Department report
Kenya has been flagged as a source, transit, and destination country for persons subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking in East Africa.
A US Department of State report titled “Trafficking in Persons Report 2018”, assesses the government’s commitment to end human trafficking in 2017.
It shows Kenya continues to host illegal recruiters who maintain networks in Uganda and Ethiopia. They recruit Rwandan, Ethiopians, and Ugandan workers through fraudulent offers of employment in the Middle East and Asia.
This is despite a directive by the government to register all agencies linking Kenyans to employment opportunities overseas.
However, by 2017, only 45 out of hundreds of overseas employment agencies had registered with the ministry.
The report states that some refugees from Kenya’s largest refugee camp Daadab are subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking.
Adults are deemed to be more vulnerable to human trafficking compared to children.
The report faults the government for prosecuting trafficking crimes as immigration or labour law violations, which have lesser penalties.
Sex and labour trafficking attract punishment of not less than 30 years in jail or a fine of not less than Sh30 million.
In 2017, the government reported 35 investigations of potential trafficking cases, compared to 530 in 2016. Many of them included smuggling and trafficking-related crimes.
“Corruption remained endemic at all levels of government, and traffickers were able to fraudulently obtain identity documents from complicit officials,” the report indicates.
“The police often take bribes to warn traffickers of impending operations and investigations.”
These shortcomings have, for the fourth time in a row, earned Kenya a Tier 2 in offering protective policies and laws against human trafficking.
The report cites the country’s lack of compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking.
Countries in Tier 2 category are those that do not fully meet the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, but are perceived as making significant efforts to comply.
The report shows that Kenyans still risk being subjected to human trafficking as illegal employment agencies continue to exploit them in domestic servitude, massage parlours and brothels, or forced manual labour.
The trafficking victims are exploited in the United States, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East particularly Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE, and Oman.
PS Immigration Services Gordon Kihalangwa has said in the past three years, the government has been using Kenyan missions in Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia to protect citizens employed in those countries.
Last year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said more than 116 Kenyans were assisted to return to Kenya mostly due to poor labour condition from the Gulf States.