Kenya as a destination country for human trafficking

Some months ago it was reported that three Ugandan girls, who had been trafficked to Kenya by a pastor, had been rescued. The girls had been rescued in Malaba town, which is on the Ugandan border. The girls, aged 12 to 17, were part of a group of 14 trafficked girls, and had been subjected to hard labour. The girls had been working at a farm in Bungoma, and once they escaped they reported the case to the police in Malaba. The girls had left Uganda under the false promise of free education in Kenya.

This is just one story of people being trafficked into Kenya. Evidence shows that Kenya is not only a source country for human trafficking but also a destination country. People from the neighboring countries of Uganda and Tanzania are at particular risk of being trafficked into Kenya. Burundi, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Sudan, Somalia and countries in South Asia are also source countries for trafficking victims into Kenya.

Victims are often trafficked to Kenya for sex trafficking. The demands of the sex industry are so great that it is drawing women from other countries, including Ethiopia, Sudan, Tanzania, and even from countries as far as South Asia. There is a demand for women in the sex tourism business as well as for commercial sexual exploitation. Women from countries such as Burundi and Rwanda are trafficked to the Kenyan coast to meet this demand. Some of them work in massage parlours where they are coerced into prostitution. In addition, women and girls from Somalia are trafficked to Kenya to work in the sex industry. Furthermore, it has been reported that Indian women are recruited to work in dance clubs in Nairobi and forced to pay off their debt by dancing and performing sex acts. Women are not only trafficked for the sex industry: along with men they are trafficked for forced labour. The labour of foreign men and women is exploited in house work, agriculture and other industries in Kenya.

Child trafficking is also common. Children are also trafficked for sex work and children from Burundi, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda are subjected to prostitution in Kenya. Refugee children from Ethiopia and Somalia are particularly vulnerable to trafficking. Some of them are as young as fourteen and end up at the coast where they are pimped by women and beach boys. The pimps can receive payment of up to $240 from tourists for each girl. These children can also be trafficked for forced labour and can end up working as house helps or in agriculture. Refugee children have reportedly also been taken outside the camps and forced to work on tobacco farms. HAART recently received a report of an Eritrean girl, Adina,* who moved to Kenya as a teenager with her parents. When they arrived in Kenya, Adina spoke little English and found it difficult to integrate into the community. Her parents then migrated to North America and being alone and an outsider in Kenya, she was easily lured to work in a brothel with false promises of work in a restaurant. Adina was sexually abused and never paid, and she became suicidal. Eventually, Adina was rescued but sadly she later died.

This is not the only time HAART has received reports of trafficking that involves foreign nationals. In the August 2014 newsletter we shared a story of an Ethiopian woman being potentially recruited to work in the Middle East. The recruiter was Kenyan and he wanted to use Kenya as a transit country as Ethiopians cannot travel directly to many Middle Eastern countries to work due to government bans. While the intended destination in this case was the Middle East and Kenya was an intended transit country, there is a possibility that if the woman had travelled she would have been forced to stay in Kenya where she could have faced exploitation. In the November 2014 newsletter we shared how we visited our volunteers in Loitoktok near the Tanzanian border. They told us many stories of children being trafficked from Tanzania to Kenya to work as cattle herders. Kenyans are now sending their own children to school in increased numbers due to changes in the availability of education in Kenya. Tanzanian children, who do not have the same educational opportunities, are subsequently recruited to take the Kenyan children’s place as herders. Our volunteers have been working on sending these children back to their homes in Tanzania. In this instance, the proximity of the border increases the instances of cross-border trafficking.

These cases highlight the fact that human trafficking in Kenya is not only an issue for Kenyans being trafficked internally or externally. Foreign nationals are also being trafficked to or through Kenya.

By Anni Alexander

* Name has been changed

Trafficking Victims at High Risk of Detention

A few weeks ago we were called by a group of grassroots activists that we work with about a young girl who had been married off to an older man. Just fourteen, they suspected that she was already pregnant. Early marriage is one of the forms of trafficking that people rarely address. However, in a place like Kenya it undoubtedly is one of the most tolerated forms of trafficking.

When we went to see the girl, we found out that the case had been reported. The police did not understand the situation and took into custody both the girl and the man who had married her. The girl was detained in the police station for five days. If you have been in any police station in Kenya, you understand that a cell is not the place for a young girl, who has been a victim of abuse, to spend the night – let alone five nights. I can’t understand how the police could think that keeping her detained was a good idea.

Under Your Nose

“Under Your Nose” by Rehema Baya

Human trafficking is one of those issues that is generally complex in nature. This is mainly because it has many cross-cutting issues and we cannot tackle the issue of trafficking without dealing with all the issues that surround it. There is no doubt that detention of children is one of those issues that we have to handle in our counter-trafficking efforts. Detention like many other issues to do with trafficking are issues that people do not know enough about. In many instances children and women who are victims of trafficking are detained by the authorities despite the fact that they are victims and need our protection.

I know that the detention of refugees and children of migrants happens regularly when the police get involved. Most child refugees and children of migrants are potentially victims of trafficking and when the matter is not handled properly, they end up in a cell being treated as criminals. Handling the matter properly entails looking at them first of all as children. The law is clear about the protection of children and detention is not part of that definition.

More and more victims of trafficking especially children are at risk of being detained. Kenya is considered a source, transit and destination point for victims of trafficking. Therefore, we have many cases of trafficked people passing through or coming to Kenya. Most of the victims have already gone through different forms of abuse by the time they get here and detaining them just adds salt to an already gaping wound.

The girl that we rescued was fortunate in that we were following up the case and we, and our partners, kept pressure on the police until they released her. We are seeking justice on her behalf. She is one of the fortunate ones.

How many children like her are not so lucky? We will never know the answer, but there is something that we can do about it. We can advocate for the authorities to do something about detention of children. We can offer effective solutions for children that prevent the use of detention.

Some of the things that we can do is construct shelters or safe houses that can be used to accommodate these children. If possible, these shelters and safe houses should be able to accommodate families in cases where we have a parent or parents with children. We can also focus on educating the police and first responders in such cases. A professional referral system that puts the needs of the victim first is extremely important. We should also advocate to hold the government accountable for respecting the dignity of every child: it is already in so many of our laws, but we do not see it in practice.

By Sophie Otiende, Reblogged from the Blog – From Fences To Freedom on the campaign to End Immigration Detention of Children which HAART is a member of.