Five Ethiopians get six months in jail for illegal entry

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

A Maralal court on Wednesday sentenced five Ethiopians to six months in prison after they were found guilty of being in Kenya illegally.

The foreigners, who spoke neither English nor Swahili, pleaded guilty through an Amharic interpreter.

They told the court that they were heading to Nairobi to find work.

"We were heading to Nairobi to seek jobs but unfortunately we were arrested on the way. We have friends who are in the city who called us," they said.

Maralal Senior Principal Magistrate John Tamar found the five guilty of being in Kenya without valid permits and passports. Mr Tamar directed that the five be repatriated to Ethiopia after serving their sentences.

"The five are clearly in the country unlawfully. Therefore, I proceed to fine them Sh30,000 each or six months in prison after which they would be repatriated back to Ethiopia," Mr Tamar ruled.

The five were among 14 immigrants detained by police. The other nine were from Eritrea and were sent to the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR in Nairobi for possible registration as refugees. 

The Eritreans said they were fleeing from unrest in Tigray following the closure of a refugee camp where they were living. They added that they were seeking asylum in Kenya.

Through a Tigrinya interpreter, they explained that they were en route to Nairobi using the Moyale-Marsabit route. They pleaded with the court not to deport them but instead send them to a refugee camp in Kenya.

"Our refugee camp was closed down due to unrest in the region. The safest and most peaceful country we know is Kenya. That is why we are here. We are seeking refuge," they said in court.

They continued: "We plead that you do not deport us back because the area is hostile. We are just asylum seekers, therefore we pray that you take us to the refugee camp and we will be safe."

The magistrate ordered that they be taken to the UNHCR offices in Nairobi for further processing.

"The court has considered their situation and they have to be taken to the UNHCR for further interrogations and possible registration as refugees," he ruled.

This means that the alleged asylum seekers will not be deported until their cases are determined by the UNHCR and Kenya’s Immigration department.

Their cases had been deferred on Monday because they could not speak English or Kiswahili.

The police said the 14 were arrested after the vehicle carrying them was intercepted on the Maralal-Rumuruti highway last week. 

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