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

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