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500 Kenyan girls face arrest as India cracks down on illegal immigrants

What you need to know:

  • Kenya’s High Commissioner to India urged Kenyans who are in India illegally to get in touch with the mission.
  • A high-ranking embassy official, who sought anonymity, told the Nation that the situation is very bad for the girls.

About 500 Kenyan girls trafficked to India are among illegal immigrants facing arrest as the Indian government cracks down on foreigners without proper papers.

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has ordered all the 29 states and seven union territories to find missing foreigners who have been in India illegally since January 1, 2011.

One of the girls trafficked to the Asian country told the Nation in a phone interview about their plight.

“It is easy for them to hunt us down. They don’t know our story, and I come from Kakamega to be exact,” she said.

"I met a woman on social media who brought me here and we call her 'mother' as a sign of respect, but the truth is it's because she owns us. She is the one who organised for me to come to India for a hoteling job. All I ever wanted was a better life and to provide for my family.

“When I arrived in Delhi, she took me to this apartment and I thought it was to rest up before I report for duty. Little did I know that she had brought me over so that I could sell my body to make her rich," she narrated.

The girl said she was unhappy with her new life and fled Delhi to settle somewhere else.

“I’m afraid of going to our embassy because the people behind this trafficking racket are very powerful and they have a lot of money. They pay police to punish us and lock us in deportation camps until we ‘toe the line’. It's not like the embassy staffers do not know them, some are very good friends with those who abuse us,” the girl said.

Illegal businesses

Speaking to the Nation, Kenya’s High Commissioner to India, Willy Bett, urged Kenyans in India illegally and especially the trafficked girls to get in touch with the mission.

“We know there are between 300 and 500 girls who were illegally brought to this country. It is usually very difficult to track them down as we do not know where they are but we are here to serve them,” he said.

“We have helped quite a number out of our own pockets as there is no budget for such situations apart from talking to Indian authorities to waive penalties and getting in touch with their families for air tickets. This week I am still going to put up another notice so that they know we are here for them and if they show up, getting a plane to take them back home will not be an issue," the High Commissioner said.

Mr Betta also said that no one should be in any country illegally.

“Most of these girls are brought in for illegal businesses. They are just caught up in terrible situations and have no one to turn to and when we ask them to reach out to us they don’t. I want them to know that we are here for them,” he said.

A high-ranking embassy official, who sought anonymity, told the Nation that the situation is very bad for the girls.

“Many Kenyan girls have also been lured by Nigerians to come here with the intention of doing illegal and harmful things. They use fake documents or even come in with a two-month tourist visa after which they vanish and when they get in trouble they are so afraid to contact us,” the official said.

“We are currently dealing with a case in which a Kenyan came here illegally as an athlete then went to Nepal, was arrested while crossing back and is currently being detained in one of the deportation camps.”

Human trafficking syndicate

The official also said young people go to India to study and end up wasting their lives and have nothing to show for the years they have been in that country. With expired visas, they decide to stay.

In 2018, while on an official trip to Delhi, the chief administrative secretary (CAS) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ababu Namwamba, said the Kenyan government was planning to “investigate, locate and destroy the evil trafficking syndicate from source to conveyor belt”.

“I’m petrified to learn that India is becoming a lucrative destination for our unsuspecting girls at the mercy of ruthless international criminal syndicates. Those culpable must be arrested, tried and severely punished to render justice and deter similar crimes,” he said then after three girls were found dead in Delhi.

“We are also sounding the alarm to all Kenyans that human trafficking is very real and our citizens are vulnerable.”

The state of Karnataka, the largest in south India, has formed a five-member committee to track “missing foreigners who are found overstaying in India”.

The committee will be responsible for submitting a monthly report to MHA by the seventh of every month and the monthly report must contain the status on the tracking of missing foreigners.

Last week, the Central Crime Branch (CCB) in Bangalore city in the same state arrested 38 foreigners suspected of residing in the city illegally and selling drugs. Many of them were unable to show legitimate documentation.

An officer working on the case told the Nation that about 66 houses were searched in east and north Bengaluru.

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