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A new study places Kenya at the centre of human trafficking routes in the region.


New human trafficking routes identified in Kenya

NAIROBI, Kenya Oct 12 – A new report has identified additional smuggling routes, once again revealing Kenya’s intricate web of extensive criminal activity with well established local and international networks.

The report comes barely three months after the US Trafficking in Persons Report 2020, placed Kenya in the list of countries with the worst human trafficking trends in the world.

The ‘Kenya’s – Human Trafficking Routes 2020 report released in September, confirms that human trafficking is prevalent in Kenya and the unrelenting traffickers are casting their nets wider to identify new routes to prey on more victims.   

According to the report, Finland and Somaliland are additional countries of origin of victims while Ethiopia, Namibia, Thailand, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Netherlands and Rwanda are additional destinations with Kenya still used as a transit point for the new entrants.

The joint report between Stop the Traffik Kenya and Freedom Collaborative further shows that the syndicates collude with different law enforcement and immigration departments to transport victims through, from and to Kenya – the main reason the country is marked as a source, destination and transit hotspot for human trafficking.

“As noted in the data submissions, corruption at border points is common with officers complicit in preparing and providing fake documents for victims, which allow them to cross,” the report reads.

The study identified 17 transit routes used to smuggle victims through Kenya from other countries. They include Busia, Nambale, Rongo and Malaba (western Kenya bordering Uganda), Garissa, Moyale, Mandera, Kismayo, Liboi and Marsabit (North Eastern Kenya bordering Somalia and Ethiopia), Mwingi and Isiolo in the eastern part connected to the northern frontier. Others routes identified are Isebania, Namanga, Kwale, Taveta and Mombasa (connecting Kenya to Tanzania).

As a country of origin, Kenyans are still trafficked to Saudi Arabia, Germany, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, and India. The victims are largely from Busia, Dadaab Camp (refugees), Eldoret, Kitale, Kitui, Kwale, Lunga Lunga, Malaba, Malindi, Mombasa, Nairobi, Namanga, and Taita-Taveta.

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The report indicates that Nairobi’s Eastleigh, Kisumu, Mombasa and Mandera are the focal destination points in Kenya for victims trafficked from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, India, Nepal, Rwanda, Somaliland, Tanzania and Uganda.

It was established that Kenya is connected to seven cross regional routes that allow movement of victims of trafficking. These include Regional Migration within East Africa (32 routes), East Africa to the Middle East (29), East Africa to Europe (10), East Africa to Asia (5), East Africa to North Africa (2) and Asia to Kenya (3).

A route from Helsinki, Finland to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia was a strange movement of victims from Europe to Kenya discovered, making it the seventh point of connection. 

“While this may seem unusual, the contributing organisation confirmed that this information comes from cases they are currently working on,” the report says. “In these cases, recruiters pose as husbands but they end up abusing the victim once they arrive at their destination in Ethiopia.”

The findings illustrate that multiple modes of transportation are used to move victims in an organized way including using local and international flights, public buses and personal vehicles.

“Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, but also Mombasa Airport, are major transit hubs for migration from East Africa to the Middle East, Europe and Asia. Migrants from the region, as well as different counties in Kenya, travel by road to Nairobi or Mombasa to board a flight for their onward journey,” a similar report done in 2019 echoed.

Poverty and the search for employment remain the main causative factors that precipitate vulnerability of victims recruited to take up jobs in the hotel industry and domestic work but end up being exploited.

 “Victims from Kenya are exploited in many different industries, most frequently in domestic work, commercial sex, hospitality and food services, marriage, and begging,” says the report.

Family members, relatives and close friends are cited as recruiters and enablers. They dupe their gullible kin under the guise of giving them a better life and profitable opportunities – the main motivator phrase used in the human trafficking trap.

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But in some instances, the study reveals, recruitment takes place using deception, threat and fraud especially in refugee camps.

“Other known details on recruitment include a method in which traffickers target aid workers in the Dadaab camp for information on potential victims to be trafficked or smuggled; they then pick vulnerable young girls looking for better opportunities in cities such as Nairobi,” states the report.

The fishing spree for victims also involves preying on persons living with disability for various purposes including harvesting their body organs, “they falsely promise them corrective surgery in Nairobi and a better life. On the route to Libya, traffickers also identify victims for organ harvesting.”

As part of its recommendation, the study is advising for the training of the Kenya Airports Authority, immigration officers and airline industry actors to help in the identification of victims and referral of cases for further investigations. 

Relevant organizations including state actors are further urged to use the data collected and collaborate to redouble their response to the ever changing and tactical human trafficking criminal networks.

“The data set now shows a number of locations from which victims were recruited and from where they departed. This data should be used to evaluate current prevention and outreach activities, identify gaps, and coordinate civil society organization services for these locations,” the report concludes.

Judie Kaberia is a fellow of the Resilience Fund of the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime

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