Human Trafficking in Kenya: higher risk during post-election violence.

Human Trafficking in Kenya: higher risk during post-election violence.

2017 has been a historical year for Kenya. Never before has the country’s presidential result been overturned; the first for Africa as a continent in fact. The decision however has divided many people who feel it has been a great example of Kenya’s democratic progress, while others feel it is harming the country’s political reputation globally. Nonetheless, history has shown that throughout post-election violence vulnerable people become targets for opportunistic traffickers. HAART Kenya urges all citizens to remain calm and be vigilant throughout the coming months as Kenya returns to the polls.

On August 8th Kenya went to the polls to vote for the next president of the country. With the violence of the 2007/2008 election still fresh in our minds, many hoped and prayed for peaceful democratic process. While there were some casualties last month in comparison to previous elections, the violence had been somewhat confined to certain areas including Mathare, Kibera and Kisumu.

But it is these areas where the most vulnerable people are based. The slums of Kibera and Mathare have a huge population living in densely together. There can be little or no job opportunities. Any source of income is generally very low and people struggle to survive. Many people there dream of a great job, home and quality of life. This is something that victims of human trafficking are offered; but of course, will not receive. HAART Kenya strives to raise awareness to the vulnerable about the warning signs of human trafficking.

Awareness Against Human Trafficking (HAART Kenya) is an NGO based in Nairobi.

It is the only organisation which works exclusively on human trafficking. Whereas other organizations have incorporated combating human trafficking as a part of what they do; HAART has decided to concentrate its work to counter human trafficking in all its shapes and forms.

HAART has developed extensive knowledge both theoretically and practically of the multi-dimensional aspects of human trafficking both for victims going abroad and those being trafficked internally in Kenya. To provide a framework for combating trafficking, HAART has adopted ‘Four Ps’ from the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking and moreover added an element of research. These include: Prevention, Prosecution, Protection; Recovery and Reintegration; and Policy and Cooperation.

The reason HAART was set up in 2008 was because there was no other organisation who sought to end modern day slavery in East Africa. Since its inception HAART has assisted more than three hundred and fifty victims and has been able to reach forty thousand people through its awareness programme at the grassroots level.

It is this second election period that HAART adds the urgency of choosing peace over violence.

With violence can bring the internal displacement of persons as was seen in the election ten years ago. Consequently, internally displaced persons are at higher risk of being trafficked in post-election violence. Research undertaken by HAART in previous years supports the fact that internally displaced persons are much more susceptible to human trafficking in post-election violence than ordinary citizens.

HAART urges all readers to be vigilant in the coming weeks and months when Kenyans go back to the polls to vote and it is for this reason which HAART Kenya urges all citizens to remain calm throughout this second election period.  Readers should feel free to get in touch with HAART if they suspect a case of human trafficking. The research mentioned previously highlighted that job recruiters were mentioned as leading source of traffickers 88.2% followed by a stranger 9.2% and a relative 2.6%. Therefore, we urge all citizens to verify all job opportunities through the relevant authorities throughout the coming months. Please visit exit.co.ke for more details on how to verify information and to safely migrate internally or abroad for your job opportunity, education and marriage as well. Additionally, most cases of trafficking involve victims aged 20 to 25 years old. Children are also trafficked (15.8% of total cases); especially among PEV IDPs (internally displaced persons) and Ethnic Conflict IDPs according to HAARTs research study.

The coming weeks and months will possibly be tense and uncertain as has been the run up to August 8th. Kenya’s democratic progress since the destructive 2007/2008 election will surely be compared with the outcome of this year’s election. If there is peace it will highly reduce the number of people who may fall prey to traffickers.

IF YOU OR A FRIEND/ FAMILY MEMBER IS SUSPICIOUS OF A POTENTIAL TRAFFICKING CASE PLEASE GET IN CONTACT WITH HAART KENYA ON 0738 506 264 OR EMAIL INFO@HAARTKENYA.ORG.

We also have an active helpline for reporting victim cases that operates day and night where you can call, text and even use the WhatsApp number – 0780211113. HAART also has a very active social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as haartkenya so be sure to get in touch if you have any questions or queries. Why not subscribe to HAART’s quarterly newsletter and keep up-to-date on the organisation’s activities throughout Kenya? While HAART cannot assist with every case HAART can also refer to a more suited organisation if the situation deems suitable. We wish all readers a peaceful election period.

 

By James Fahey

 

On transit

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.

Photo by Bethan Uitterdijk

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

What is Justice?

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.

salt-medium

By Rehema Baya/A2ES

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.

Sophie Otiende

Shelter Crisis

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.

dfdf

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.”

 

The Promise

The One Human Family, One Voice, No Human Trafficking conference in Nigeria

On 5-7 September 2016, more than 150 people gathered in Abuja, Nigeria representing different faith based organizations, NGOs and international organizations from more than 40 countries. The occasion was a conference on human trafficking in Africa, hosted by Caritas Nigeria and organized by Caritas Internationalis and the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. HAART had taken part in the preparation as a part of the working and was at the conference represented by Sophie Otiende and Jakob Christensen. HAART furthermore was able to bring a small sample of its Arts to End Slavery exhibition to the conference.

1

The conference was held in Abuja the capital of Nigeria.

The One Human Family, One Voice, No Human Trafficking conference was a chance for stakeholders to take stock on the growing crisis of human trafficking in Africa, discuss solutions and best practices as well as providing for an excellent networking opportunity.

Some of the issues discussed in the conference was the different faces of human trafficking which robs its victims of their humanity and dignity and shows itself in different ways in labour exploitation, sexual exploitation and organ removals among others. It is a global problem that affects millions men, women and children in every country in Africa. Although human trafficking is illegal in all 54 African countries, there have so far not been any effective pan-African integrated efforts to combat it. The efforts are usually isolated and not coordinated. The conference was a first effort towards better cooperation within and across borders. Religious institutions offers an excellent avenue and partner in the eradication of human trafficking due to its vas organizations, longevity and shared values. This was affirmed by Cardinal Luis Tagle, Caritas Internationalis president, who urged the church to be the conscience of society.

2

Jakob Christensen (Right) presented a paper on Forced Labour in Africa

At the conference there were survivors of human trafficking who shared the stories of what their experiences had been. Among them, were Sophie Otiende from HAART Kenya who gave a powerful statement on how human trafficking had affected her and how it could have been easily have been prevented. It was a statement not only about victimization and suffering, but also about surviving and not being allowing the exploitation to define her. And she was a testament to how survivors are strong and poses transformative powers to help others in similar situations. She urged everyone to look beyond the surface of our everyday lives as victims are oftentimes hiding in plain sight, which is something that traffickers take advantage of.

3

Cultural dance by a local group

As human trafficking continues to rage on in the African continent with its millions of victims, robbing many societies of their most precious resources, its people. The delegates at the conference worked on a joint statement building on the declaration of Pope Francis and other world leaders in 2014. The statement urges the governments of the world to adopt better laws of human trafficking as well as proper implementing and to reaffirm that human trafficking is a crime against humanity and:

“…commit to collaboration and common action aiming at preventing and eradicating the scourge of human trafficking and exploitation of human beings and upholding human dignity.”

By Jakob Christensen