Poverty fuels human trafficking in Kenya
Anti human trafficking activist Amina Kinsi fights the crime with the
only weapons at her disposal. The vice is growing rapidly with Kenya's
underground networks estimated to generate an estimated millions of U.S
Sunday, April 28, 2013
Kenya's refugee rights organizations and aid agencies have
blamed poverty in the East African region for the rising cases of human
They said that the huge supply of labour, both skilled and unskilled, makes them vulnerable to criminal syndicates.
Refugee Consortium of Kenya (RCK) Information
Officer Andrew Maina said on Thursday that studies indicate that at
least 50 girls between the age of 10 and 15 every week are sold to serve
as sex workers in the main towns of Kenya.
He noted that trafficking does not only target
minors but women as well. "The vice is growing rapidly with Kenya's
underground networks estimated to generate an estimated 40 million U.S.
dollars annually," he said.
The crime is prevalent in all regions of the
country, but poor parents are known to coerce their children into
prostitution. The situation is further exacerbated in northern Kenya by
the frequent drought that increases the presence of cheap labour.
The victims normally have no access to freedom of
movement as well as any other fundamental rights. RCK Legal Officer
Dennis Likule said that the country's tourism industry also plays a role
in promoting the trafficking. "Kenya's coastline has become a sex
tourism destination with minors becoming victims," Likule said.
He added that there are also cases of people who
migrate in order to access better socio- economic opportunities. In
addition, he noted that Kenyans voluntarily go to the Middle East region
in search of employment and sometimes end up being exploited. But the
east African nation has also taken steps to combat the crime.
The 2010 Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act
proscribed stiff penalties of up to 357,000 dollars fine or 30 year jail
term for any one convicted of the offense.
Human smuggling is common and involves providing
assistance for entry of a person into a country illegally. Likule added
that international migration has been a common global phenomenal since
time in memorial.
According to the International Organization of
Migration (IOM), up to 20,000 Somali and Ethiopian immigrants are
smuggled into Kenya annually with the South Africa as their final
However, globally approximately 600,000 to 800,000 persons are trafficked annually, with 80 percent of victims being female.
However, states do exercise control over their
territory through issuance of visas or permits but forced migrations
across border affects this mandate. International Rescue Committee
Protection Officer Grace Awino said that refugees in Kenya are still
vulnerable despite the legislation put in place.
Following concerted effects by the civil society, parliament passed the Refugee Act in 2006.
The legislation domesticated all UN conventions
relating to refugees. United Nations Convention on Refugees notes that
countries are under obligation to process a person's application for
asylum, regardless of whether the person arrived legally or illegally.
In addition, people should not return to a place where their life is at
risk or to be refused entry at the border.
However, international refugee protection
instruments don't provide persons engaged with terrorism with a safe
haven. The UN established the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in
1948 to protect the rights of all humans, but the status of refugees was
further enhanced by the 1951 convention on refugees that set the
minimum standards for forced migrants.
In Africa, the predecessor of the African Union,
the Organization of African Unity passed a Convention in 1969 to address
the specific challenges to the continent.
RCK programme officer Rufus Karanja said that
refugee status is a temporary status and comes to an end if the
situation in home country is improved, if the refugee acquires new
nationality or voluntarily moves back to the home country.
RCK deputy programme officer Riva Jalipa said that
the country currently host 600,000 refugees, with most of them from
Somalia, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.Jalipa
added that since the end of last year, the government stopped
registering new refugees due to safety concerns. Jalipa said that conflict is the most common cause of displacement.
"However, country partition makes a lot of people stateless," he said,
adding that most displacement lasts on average 17 years.