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Kenya a conduit for human traffickers

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 10 – A local NGO is warning that Kenya is being used as a channel of trafficking women from war-torn Somalia who are sold off as sex slaves abroad.

Womankind Kenya Executive Director Hubbie Hussein said on Thursday that about 20 to 50 young women from northern Kenya are trafficked every week to Nairobi and other European countries.

Ms Hussein explained that the phenomenon first targeted women placed in internal camps in Somalia but the practice is now spreading to Kenyan girls who live around the northern border towns.

“What is happening is that vehicles that ferry miraa (khat) to Somalia are also used to ferry young girls and women for the purpose of trade. Businessmen and women traffic these young girls to brothel houses in Nairobi and other countries,” she said.

Ms Hussein said that the girls were lured into the business with promises of jobs where they are made to part with some money so as to secure their ‘jobs’. She added that some of the girls were defiled by their traffickers before getting to their destinations.

“These girls are misused by the men in the vehicles after being told that they will be resettled in America. The law enforcement is very loose; police are not very cooperative; after all women are seen as objects for the pleasure of men,” she explained adding that a lot of young girls had dropped out of school in the region.

Ms Hussein who spoke as Kenya marked the final day of activism against violence on women commended the new Provincial Commissioner for North Eastern province saying he had so far tried to reduce the vice and asked the government to increase its efforts in fighting the ill.

“Mr Ole Serian is trying to work hard to stop this trade and is concerned about the violence against women. He has tried to make reforms at the provincial level but he cannot work alone. He needs support from the government,” she said and observed that the wrangles within different factions of government would not help avert the wrong.

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“The conflicts between our politicians (who are always exchanging harsh words against one another) water down to the ground level such that these people (the cartels) see that there are no checks and balances and continue with the trade,” she stated.

Ms Hussein further added that Mr Serian’s efforts in the area had seen the government try to tighten the porous border lines however adding that more needed to be done.

“Security has been beefed up at the border points but there are still panya routes that are used to ferry these girls. The cartels know where the police are stationed and so they dodge them and use other routes,” she said further asking the government to tighten the entry points to Nairobi.

“Nairobi is where the girls are brought; that is where the end market is whether the girls will be taken to other countries or will remain in Kenya,” she explained.

Ms Hussein also called on the government to empower the traditional governance system so that the lowest forms of government committed themselves to ending the illegal trade.

“Our council of elders should be empowered so that they can be on the look out. The youths should be empowered so that they are also on the look out and so that they protect their sisters while women should be sensitised to protect each other. This trade requires the concerted efforts of different consortiums,” she said adding that religious leaders should also speak against the vice.

Elsewhere, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has cautioned Kenyans to be ware of private employment agencies that engage in human trafficking.

IOM Regional Program Development Officer Tal Raviv said on Thursday that emergencies like the food crisis, Mau evictions and the post election crisis create conducive environment for human traffickers to recruit, transport and exploit the vulnerable population.

“As long as you find a job abroad through an agency there should be mechanisms in place to ensure that this will not end up in trafficking,” she said.

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She said illegal private recruitment companies had become a common mode of trafficking of persons abroad and added that there was need for a specific anti-human trafficking legislation to curb the menace.

“A person who sees an advertisement in the newspaper should be able to know this is an organisation that is accredited by KAPEA (Kenya Association of Private Employment Agencies) and that means that the contract they give is valid,” Ms Raviv said.

IOM Counter Trafficking Community Outreach Consultant, Japheth Kasimbu said 2008 statistics from the United Nations indicate that 2.7 million people were trafficked annually in 137 countries globally.

“We have also seen manifestations in street begging. We have a lot of women who walk around with children begging for money and they are not necessarily their children. These are children who have just been taken from their neighborhoods and they are using them to make sure that they are earning,” Mr Kasimbu said.

 “This child is being exploited because they have been moved from one point to the city for exploitation. That constitutes to human trafficking,” he explained.

Emergency and Recovery Programme Manager Jerotich Seii Houlding noted that during the 2007 post-election crisis some children were moved from Internally Displaced Persons camps to other parts of the country without a clear purpose of what they were going to do.

“But there was an idea of either a children’s home or a school and there was even some religious connotation that this is actually a charitable activity being undertaken by the people who came to take these children and the parents apparently consented and this immediately raised an alarm because regardless of the intention behind the movement of children, if its not a clear case of fostering, adoption where there is a system and structure to protect those children that are being taken, eventually those children could find themselves in a situation of extreme exploitation

The IOM is now conducting a media campaign dubbed the ‘Kaa Chonjo’ to educate and caution the public on modes of human trafficking.

According to Counter Trafficking Project Officer Alia Hirjis the campaign mainly targets the population in Western, Rift Valley and North Eastern which are most prone to human trafficking.

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“We want to build community awareness, capacity and create community networks that can support victims of trafficking so that we can build community policing so that if these cases are identified, people can know where to report them,” she said.

She said they also aimed to promote safe migration.

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