Report: Kenya still off track in fight against trafficking

Thursday, July 30th, 2020 00:00 |
School children hold sign in protest of child trafficking. Photo/Courtesy

The US Department of State Trafficking in Persons report 2020 still retains Kenya at Tier 2 on the list of countries with high incidences of trafficking. This means the government has not fully met minimum standards for the elimination of the trafficking, but is making significant efforts to do so.

“These efforts included significantly increasing number of victims identified, utilising victim assistance fund, launching a cybercrime centre to investigate child sexual exploitation and child sex trafficking cases, enhancing law enforcement coordination with other countries on trafficking cases, and improving efforts to regulate recruitment agencies and support and protect migrant workers,” the report says.

Put on spot

The government was, however, put on the spot for a decrease in number of investigations, prosecutions, convictions and under-reporting of trafficking cases last year because of lack of coordination and poor data collection.

Last year, only 42 people were arrested for trafficking offenses, with 22 individuals prosecuted, compared with at least 33 individuals in the previous year.

There were at least 38 active cases brought forward from prior years, and only six new trafficking cases were investigated.

In 2018, 33 trafficking cases and 25 trafficking-related cases were under investigation.

Kenya was lauded for her collaboration with neighbouring countries, which led to rescue of 96 Ugandan victims of exploitation in Kenya.

One of the high-profile human trafficking case in Kenya was reported in the late 2018 after a cabinet secretary was linked to the signing of cultural work permits for women to dance in a mujra clubs.

“Authorities removed the official from office after the allegations surfaced, but the status of investigations into the official’s conduct remained unclear at the close of the reporting period,” the report noted.

Kenya identified victims of trafficking—275 adult females, 351 girls, and 227 boys—a significant increase compared with at least 400 identified victims in 2018.

The majority of  these victims were subjected to forced labour. Meanwhile, the government referred 78 victims (40 children and 38 women) to shelter services, while the Transnational Organised Crime Unit under the Directorate of Criminal Investigations identified 144 trafficking victims during raids and encounters in commercial sex establishments.

Last year, according to the report, there was an increase in Ugandan girls trafficking into Kenya, especially in Eastleigh area where they were sexually exploited or engaged in forced labour.

 In a shift from the norm, traffickers began targeting vulnerable youth in rural areas and remote villages in Kenya as opposed to the Coast region, which has been a trafficking hub for years.

“Increased awareness campaigns, trainings, and law enforcement efforts in the coastal region and in hotels and resorts have shifted the location of sex trafficking of minors to private hotels and short-term rentals,” the report said.

Rural areas 

The report comes at a time when children’s rights organisations are warning child trafficking cases could spike as a result economic effect of Covid-19.

 “The movement restrictions issued to curb spread of Covid-19 have not restricted child trafficking within and beyond borders.

On the contrary, unscrupulous traffickers have found ways to bypass government’s directives and carried on with their lucrative business of trafficking minors for exploitation in labour or prostitution.

Over 50 cases are being addressed by children’s rights organisations, mostly in Uganda and Tanzania, with a few cases in Kenya and Ethiopia as well,” said Magdalene Wanza, Terre des Hommes country director in a statement issued to mark the World Day Against Trafficking.

One of the cases in Kenya involved a 13-year-old girl trafficked from Nairobi to Kwale during lockdown.

The girl, hailing  from Siaya was living with her grandparents in Nairobi. She was lured into a relationship by a man in his 30s and was trafficked to Mwangulu in Kwale.

It took the quick action of different children’s rights organisation to rescue her. 

Wanza expressed concern that many children might drop out of school indefinitely due to the pandemic.

“School drop-out as a result of the Covid-19 crisis needs specific attention from governments to ensure all children go back to school and play their part in their countries’ future,” she said.

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