14 immigrants to remain in custody as refugee status is probed

Fourteen foreign nationals when they appeared before a Maralal Court on July, 4, 2022 for being in the country illegally 

Photo credit: Geoffrey Ondieki | Nation Media Group

Fourteen foreign nationals accused of being in Kenya illegally will remain in police custody for two more days as the office of refugees and immigration affairs determines whether they qualify for asylum.

They appeared in a Maralal court on Monday and faced charges of being in Kenya unlawfully, contrary to section 53(1)(j) as read with section 53(2) of the Kenya Citizenship and Immigration Act No. 12 of 2011.

The court heard that on June 25, police acting on a tip-off intercepted a Toyota Prado on the Maralal-Rumuruti highway in the Suguta Mar Mar area.

Prosecutors said the suspects produced identification documents that indicated they could be refugees from a camp in Ethiopia. Some of them had cards issued by the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR.

Documents produced in court showed that nine of the suspects were of Ethiopian origin and the rest were Eritrean nationals.

"We need the refugee secretariat and the immigration office to determine whether they qualify to be protected as asylum seekers. The documents before this court indicate they could be refugees who are fleeing from an Ethiopian refugee camp," said Senior Principal Magistrate John Tamar.

The suspects could not speak English or Kiswahili, prompting the court to defer the case to Wednesday, when Tigrinya and Amharic interpreters would be made available. 

Police said the suspects were arrested after the vehicle carrying them was intercepted on the Maralal-Rumuruti highway last week. The immigrants were reportedly on their way to Nairobi.

The driver of the vehicle escaped after the vehicle was stopped and had not been arrested.

Intelligence reports show that the immigrants were using the same mode of travel as members of terrorist groups to sneak into Kenya with the intention of committing serious offences.

The number of foreigners using fake documents to enter Kenya via the Moyale-Isiolo highway is increasing. They often use the bushy Barsaloi-Maralal road to avoid detection.