Taking a business trip or even leisure trip and going through the immigration process and airports processes is a normal thing to most people. We normally travel oblivious of every other process in the same airport or plane with us; minding our own business to the latter. This was the case for my colleagues and I when we were returning to Kenya from Ethiopia. Checking in and queuing at airport in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia was normal.
As we went up the escalator in search of our gate we met a lady who seemed not to be sure of where she was going. She was staring at the escalator, seemingly not understanding how it works. She did not speak English and thus verbal communication was difficult. She showed her boarding pass to my colleague, she needed to know where her gate was as well and so we directed her. Luckily she was going in our direction and it was easy to help her. Her boarding pass indicated that she was travelling to Lebanon. This immediately became suspicious to us as a possible case of trafficking but we did not make much of it. This was not until we got to her gate. There were seated about nine ladies all travelling to Lebanon. The lady we met on the escalator was happy to see them, they seem to know each other. There and then our suspicion was even better qualified. None of the women spoke English we quickly sought out someone who could speak Amharic which was what they spoke. Luckily, one of the shop attendants agreed to help us. We gave them the contact of an organization that they could get in touch with in case they got into trouble in Lebanon. At this stage, there was nothing much we could do as they were set to travel.
This is just but one out of the many instances that go unnoticed. We often see young men and women that are traveling on fights to the Middle East in the Nairobi and Addis Ababa airports. Ideally there immigration and airport personel should be aware and provide some form of awareness on human trafficking given to such vulnerable groups at the airports so that they are aware maybe we could avert some trafficking cases. If there was a bit more in-depth investigation done by the immigration when such groups or individuals are applying for visas or leaving their countries through the airports; then maybe more cases of trafficking would be averted and even capture the perpetrators. We need sensitization and awareness raising on human trafficking in our airports and with immigration.
By Phyllis Mburu
I think one of the most satisfying things on earth is seeing someone who has not known joy and peace finally find it. It is even more satisfying to be involved in their walk to realizing this and watch their reactions afterwards.
This was the feeling I had on the last day of November 2016 when HAART’s shelter was officially opened and the children were brought in. The excitement was written all over their faces; knowing that they will be at HAART’s shelter where they would receive the care and protection they require. They were excited about the space and the faces they met; most especially the victims department members who have walked with them and toiled tirelessly to see the shelter become a reality.
The girls had just closed school and this was home to them. They giggled to each other while having dinner; a clear indication of the friendships they had created and having a roof over their heads just crowned it. I observed how fast they became comfortable in the place. They were not shy to choose their beds and walk around the shelter to familiarize themselves with the place. Their settling was very swift.
We shared dinner that evening as they talked about school and their journey from school to the shelter. They were happy, yes they were happy. Finally what had been denied to them; the opportunity to just be a child and receive care and attention was right in front of them. They would enjoy the holidays assured that they were safe. This made me realize how important peace of mind is to every human mind regardless of their age, and just how important it is for people to care about each other’s peace of mind. The opportunity to dream again and keep it at it knowing that it is achievable was here.
This was a big achievement for HAART. Changing lives and doing the best while at it is one of the key roles for HAART. It was also a dream come true for HAART as the idea of having a shelter had been lingering for a while. This meant that the protection program had grown and we could confidently assist more girls without having to worry about their aftercare. More than ever before I was proud to be a part of the HAART team.
By Phyllis Mburu
We are happy to finally be able to share the video about the Arts to End Slavery exhibition in 2016 that was recorded on the World Day against Trafficking in Persons, 30th July 2016.
HAART has been chosen to participate in the Global Learning Collaboration project by Safe Horizon. This project will focus on sharing best practices among organizations in the world that deal with victims of human trafficking. On August 5th we had our first online meeting and the conversation was centered upon the definition of justice for survivors.
I was looking forward to the breaking down of the concept of justice because I am slowly discovering that the definition of the word might be universally the same but it’s meaning is quite different to every person you ask. Therefore, the meaning of justice to victims of trafficking is just not different from mine as a practitioner but also from one victim to the other. This is something that all of us agreed upon. The question then becomes, do you find a common meaning for justice or do you go with the meaning that a victim presents?
When we think about justice, most of us think about the courts and the legal process but it is good to acknowledge that the legal process is a small part of the definition of justice especially for victims that have gone through the kind of trauma that trafficking does. Most victims see justice as the whole process of healing and recovery and reintegration back to society. We all seemed to agree that victims should come first therefore what justice means to them should always be the focus of our work. This is not always easy because we live in communities with systems that sometimes require us to respond in a specific way and that way might require that a victim’s priority will not be ultimate as it should be.
Access to justice through the legal process is a difficult task for most of us in the field of counter-trafficking. The discussions focused on the process of administration of justice for victims of trafficking. It is common practice in criminal cases for the police to want to collect evidence from the victim as soon as they are rescued. This is not easy for a victim who has gone through extreme trauma. In many cases and especially for victims of sex trafficking, their relationship with the police is not one based on trust. Most of them are scared because they have probably been through the system and been abused therefore asking them to trust the police and give their statement is a tall order.
It is also notable in places like Kenya that the police who are responsible for prosecution are not trusted to do the right thing. In most cases even if they are willing to help the complexity of the crime of trafficking makes it impossible for them to meet the threshold of evidence required to prosecute a trafficking case. The question then is should we give up on trying these cases? No, there is definitely work to be done especially with the police to create awareness about human trafficking and prosecuting these cases. It is when prosecuting a case that as a practitioner you discover that partnerships are important not just with each other but also with the government. We cannot give up on prosecution but we can systematically and strategically address some of the areas that we need to improve.
There was a suggestion of trying human trafficking cases as civil suit instead of trying them as criminal cases. Civil suits can be tried at any point when the survivor is ready for the case to be tried in addition any compensation made from the case directly benefits the victim of trafficking. Is this something that we should consider? I think we should. At the end of the day getting justice through the legal process for victims of trafficking should always be a priority for all of us. We don’t always have the means but we have every reason to try and ensure that victims feel that they have received justice after going through our programs.
Over the past 2-3 months we have been dealing with a shelter crisis (read about it here) that caused disruption to our work with reintegration and rehabilitation of victims of trafficking. More importantly, it meant we could no longer offer a secure and stable environment for the victims we were supporting. After a lot of work, long hours and tears from our dedicated team, we are extremely happy to announce that from today there will be a dedicated rescue center for victims of trafficking in Kenya. The local Advisory Council and the District Children Office inspected the rescue center and although there were still a few details left to fix such as getting all the furniture delivered, the inspection team was happy with the progress and have given an approval for the center to begin it’s operations.
We will not share the location or announce the staff that work there both to protect the victim and our staff as the Rescue Center is meant to be a safe house and the place will not be open for the public. However, we can say that the rescue center is in a safe neighborhood within 1-2 hours’ drive from Nairobi City Centre. The Centre will have a maximum capacity of 20 female victims of trafficking from the ages 8-18. We still have not decided on a name for the place and although we have some ideas, but if anyone have a good suggestion we are willing to listen.
Now that we are offering accommodation full-time to victims of trafficking if you have anything you would like to donate it would be very well received. Whether it’s monetary or items such as food items, household items, hygienic items, toys or books, we would be extremely grateful. We would like to thank our supporters who donate every month and also thank Bobmil Group who donated 21 mattresses. We are also extremely grateful for our donors such as Misereor, Misean Cara, Walk Free Foundation, Razem Dla Afryki, Mensen met een Missie and Missio Austria who allow us to assist victims of trafficking in Kenya. Lastly, we would also like to extend our gratitude to our UK partner Medaille Trust who have helped us by generously sharing their own shelter guidelines and manuals which has made the transition a lot easier.
Finally, from the management we are extremely proud and honored that we are able to work with such a capable and dedicated team that never wavered and worked extremely hard and diligent to make this rescue center a reality.
We are happy to receive the first residents of the rescue center today!
Awareness Against Human Trafficking (HAART) is an organization founded as a response to the increasing crisis of human trafficking in Kenya, a cause which it is entirely dedicated to fight. Founded in 2010, it works in the areas of prevention of trafficking, prosecution of trafficking offenders and protection of victims and working with partners in advocacy and policy. Since it was founded, HAART has trained more than 30,000 people in vulnerable and impoverished grassroots community on human trafficking, how to avoid becoming a victim and what someone can do to get help. Primarily through the workshops we have been able to identify and assist victims of trafficking. The assistance is based on individual needs and can be anything from rescue, economic empowerment, medical care, education, psychosocial support, training, relocation and shelter.
Shelter has always been a challenge for us and other organizations as there are no dedicated shelters for victims of human trafficking in Kenya, but for the past 2 years, HAART has had a working relationship with one shelter in Nairobi that did allow us to bring victims of trafficking with short notice, which is essential in rescue operations. However, due to some regrettable circumstances regarding the care of a child victim of trafficking, we have had to remove all of our beneficiaries from the shelter and find temporary solutions. HAART will not be able to work with that shelter going forward as it is not safe.
We have been able to deal with the crisis by working with different shelters and sending children back to boarding school early. However, these are all temporary solutions until November when the schools close and at the moment we are not able to refer any victims to shelters for protection. This is essential as we are often involved in rescue operations e.g. when a child is rescued from a brothel, early child marriage or domestic servitude in the afternoon it is important that we have place to take the victim immediately.
Since late 2015, HAART has been working on raising funds to first buy land and then build a shelter. We felt back then that it was a real need in Kenya, and we are even more committed to it now. However, time has run away from us and we can no longer wait to raise enough money buy land let alone build a shelter. We need a safe temporary place for victims of trafficking by 1st November as we continue to work on a long-term solution. We are therefore appealing to anyone who can help, to assist us either with funding, second hand furniture and housing items, food and if possible land or a house (either donated or lent).
We are confident that the expertise and capacity HAART has built in the area of protection of victims of trafficking over the past 6 years, and in particular the knowledge we gained from handling the biggest human trafficking case in Kenya’s history in 2014 and 2015 when we successfully rescued 31 trafficked Kenyan women from Libya in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration and the Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs will enable us to provide both protection and holistic care for the victims of trafficking in our care. For this new temporary rescue center, we would have to recruit additional staff, but the new recruits will be trained and supported by HAART’s existing both experienced, knowledgeable and passionate staff.
It will need a concerted effort if we are ever to eradicate human trafficking. Please remember the words of the famous 18th century abolitionist William Wilberforce who was instrumental in ending slavery:
“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”