The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has come under sharp scrutiny amid claims of harassment, double taxation and discrimination.
Over 1,200 Kenyans in the diaspora, who have rallied under the aegis of the Strategists on Kenyan Matters Impacting Diaspora Committee, have expressed concern over what they termed as “unsettling experiences” upon arrival to the country.
Exorbitant taxes, harassment, invasion of privacy by KRA officials and racial discrimination, where white tourists are accorded better treatment, are some of the woes that Kenyans returning home have alleged to have endured in Kenya airports.
Speaking to the Nation on Thursday, the group’s chairperson, Mr Mwaura Mwembu, said Kenyans from the diaspora often receive a frosty reception including “being subjected to unnecessary scrutiny and lengthy questioning.”
On taxations, the diaspora Kenyans have decried multifaceted and exorbitant levies charged on goods brought into the country as well as discriminatory, opaque tax procedures, which, they say have “derailed their ability to invest in the community and support local businesses.
Further, the 21-member committee has disapproved of what it claims to be double standards in handling diaspora passengers in contrast with white tourists.
“At the airports, white foreigners’ luggages are allowed exit without much scrutiny but, when it comes to black travellers, KRA officials often conduct intrusive searches scouring for any taxable item,” Mr Mwembu said.
They group said that, while diaspora Kenyans are willing to pay legitimate taxes, “we are opposed to the practice of double taxation.”
“Those kinds of incidents leave most people feeling unwelcome to an extent of discouraging them from making any positive contribution to their motherland.”
Warning that diaspora remittances could drop if the issues are not addressed, Mr Mwembu stated that they are seeking fruitful engagements with the relevant authorities. They have called upon the Prime Cabinet Secretary, who is also the Foreign and Diaspora Affairs CS, Mr Musalia Mudavadi, to urgently intervene.
Urging President William Ruto’s government to step in, the group said that, “despite often feeling marginalised and unappreciated, Kenya’s diaspora has historically extended goodwill to their motherland.”
“Diaspora is a fundamental economic pillar, which contributes over Sh653.95 billion every year to our country’s economic growth.”
The recent developments come in the wake of widespread outcry over a poor diaspora policy, with the government facing mounting pressure to address the issues.
According to Central Bank of Kenya statistics, diaspora is Kenya’s top foreign exchange earner beating the major exports such as tea, coffee and horticulture.
In 2022, diaspora remittances to the country rose by 8.3 percent to Sh642.3 billion, closing in on exports, which earned Sh920.3 billion in the same period.