Human traffickers have shifted their target from the Coast to vulnerable youth in rural areas and remote villages in Kenya, leading to increased exploitation of children from miraa growing areas and those near gold mines in Western Kenya, in addition to truck drivers on major highways and fishermen on Lake Victoria, a new report by the US State Department now shows.
According to the 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report; Kenya, cases of human trafficking at the Coast have been declining following increased awareness campaigns and tightened law enforcement in the region.
That, however, has not ended the vice in the region entirely, with the report noting that traffickers moved their trade to private hotels and short term rentals.
The report established that while trafficking for sexual exploitation is still prevalent, especially in Nairobi and Kisumu, children particularly, are being trafficked for domestic service, agriculture, fishing, cattle herding, street vending and begging.
“Increasingly, traffickers are bringing children and persons with physical disabilities from Tanzania and other neighbouring countries to engage in forced begging and foreign victims are coerced to serve as facilitators and middlemen to further trafficking schemes,” observed the report.
It further noted that Kenyans are continuously being recruited by legal and illegal employment agencies as others migrate voluntarily to Europe, Northern Africa, North America, Central and South East Asia and the Middle East -- particularly Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Iraq and Oman -- where they are at times exploited in massage parlours and brothels and in forced manual labour or domestic service.
With Kenya serving as a transit point for Ethiopians and other East Africans seeking work in South Africa, Nairobi-based recruiters have maintained networks in Uganda and Ethiopia that recruit Ethiopian and Ugandan workers through fraudulent offers of employment in the Middle East and Asia.
Ugandan and Nigerian traffickers were mentioned as transporting Kenyan women to Thailand for sex while young Kenyan men are lured into Somalia to join criminal and terrorist networks, sometimes with fraudulent promises of lucrative employment elsewhere.
“Authorities reported an increase in Ugandan girls subjected to trafficking in Kenya, specifically in Nairobi’s Eastleigh neighborhood where business owners and employers often exploit them sexually and in forced labour,” adds the report.
Recruiters are also reportedly using debt-based coercion to force Nepali, Indian and Pakistani women to work in Mujra (type of dance originating in India) clubs in Nairobi and Mombasa where they are forced to pay off the debt by dancing and through exploitation in the commercial sex industry.
In May last year, the government launched the National Employment Authority (NEA) that prohibited recruitment of domestic workers seeking jobs in the UAE by unregistered employment agencies.
The authority laid down the requirements for registration of agencies that compelled them to ensure the safety of Kenyans abroad by for example having their contracts signed in the presence of an official from the Ministry of Labour and having applicants register with the Kenyan embassy at the host country upon arrival.
However, the report notes numerous illegal and unregistered agencies remained in operation and that salaries of Kenyans are still being held by their employers abroad in efforts to coerce them to stay longer.
“NGOs reported that recruitment agencies bribed labour officials to bypass required procedures including allowing recruitment agents to sign contracts on the workers’ behalf when they failed to appear in person,” the report stated.
A report by Enact released July this year revealed that Kenya still provides an exit point for Africans being exploited abroad, particularly to the Middle East, where they are instead trafficked into forced labour and modern-day slavery by organised criminal networks.
Enact identified 12 unlicensed agencies that had collectively recruited more than 2,000 Kenyans to such networks that required them to work from private homes and frequently move offices, making them difficult to trace.