, NAIROBI, Kenya Jun 5 – A section of envoys from the European Union have voiced concerns over the move by the government to require all foreigners to register afresh for their permits in Kenya.
The diplomats from Belgium, Denmark, and the United Kingdom told the Defence and Foreign Relations Committee that the requirement is already posing a barrier to investment and trade from their nationals who would want to invest in the country.
Belgian Ambassador Nicolas Nihon said Kenya is an international hub due to her status as the host of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and should not be seen to be frustrating other citizens from accessing it.
“We as a member of the EU community would be happy to see the government and Parliament pushing behind the hospitality towards not only the diplomats but also the expat community and here I am speaking to the infamous issue of the work permits,” Nihon said.
Danish Ambassador Mette Knudsen welcomed the exercise to digitize personal information of foreign nationals in the country, but called on the government to add more registration centres.
“We look at Nairobi as not only the hub for the region, but also on global issues and we are all supportive of that, but it would be very good if the hospitality around this room would be extended toward the civil societies that are here working on humanitarian issues assisting both Kenya and the region providing a lot of jobs and investments but sometimes run into challenges with work permits and other permits,” she said.
UK High Commissioner Nic Hailey said the swoop against illegal work permits is in the right direction noting that it will net a few but inconvenience many.
“I associate myself with what my colleagues have said about the working environment in Nairobi, for international staff whether in business, NGOs or in our own missions. I completely understand and would support the Kenyan governments desire to ensure that everyone who works here from abroad does so legally. But the technicalities currently placed around those arrangement whether for our missions or our companies or for our NGOs do have a serious impact on the investment environment in Nairobi’s role as an international hub and I would urge committee to those up with the government,” Hailey said.
The government in May launched a work permit verification and registration exercise that targets all foreign workers in the country.
Currently, Kenya has 34,000 registered foreigners issued with a work permit, but Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi says thousands others are not registered.
The 60-day exercise targets illegal foreign workers in the country.
The Cabinet Secretary said the government, within the next 60 days, will issue electronic work permit cards to any foreign worker in Kenya with special consideration being given to missionary doctors, foreign professors hired in local universities.
The CS said unemployment levels in the country are at an all time high and Kenyans need to be cushioned from those who take jobs that they can do themselves.
After the 60 days, Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet has been directed to arrest those who will not have applied for legal status in the country.
A digital record consisting of personal details will be established after the exercise.
All foreigners will be issued with a card that has security features and their personal information.