Kenya is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Within the country, Kenyan children are forced to labor in domestic service, agriculture, fishing, cattle herding, street vending, and begging. Children are also exploited in prostitution throughout Kenya, including in the coastal sex tourism industry, in eastern khat cultivation areas, and near Nyanza’s gold mines. Women, “beach boys,” and sometimes a child’s own parents push children into prostitution in coastal areas to receive payments from tourists. Kenyans voluntarily migrate to other East African nations, South Sudan, Europe, the United States, and the Middle East—particularly Saudi Arabia, but also to Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Lebanon, and Oman in search of employment, where they are at times exploited in domestic servitude, massage parlors and brothels, or forced manual labor. Gay and bisexual Kenyan men are lured from universities with promises of overseas jobs, only to be forced into prostitution in Qatar and the UAE.
Children from Burundi, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda are subjected to forced labor and prostitution in Kenya. The security situation in Dadaab—Kenya’s largest refugee camp complex that is host to hundreds of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers—did not allow for full humanitarian access, assistance, or protective services. Somali refugees living in the Dadaab complex have reported the presence of al-Shabaab recruiters; a 2012 survey by a local NGO found that fear of recruitment into this armed group, particularly among children, was a key concern in the camps. Some children in Kenya-based refugee camps, the majority of whom are Somali, may encounter exploitation in prostitution while others are taken outside the camps and forced to work on tobacco farms. Vehicles transporting khat to Somalia return carrying Somali girls and women, who often end up in brothels in Nairobi or Mombasa.
The Government of Kenya does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the reporting period, the government’s “children’s officers”—social welfare officials who address children’s issues—continued efforts to identify and protect child trafficking victims throughout the country. Kenya’s Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act went into effect in October 2012; however, the government did not launch and implement its national plan of action, convene the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Advisory Committee, take tangible action against trafficking complicity among law enforcement officials, provide shelter and other protective services for adult victims, monitor the work of overseas labor recruitment agencies, or provide wide scale anti-trafficking training to its officials, including police, labor inspectors, and children’s officers. It held few traffickers accountable for their crimes in comparison to the significant number of child trafficking victims identified. Therefore, Kenya is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for the second consecutive year as it did not demonstrate evidence of increased efforts to combat human trafficking. The government’s efforts remained uncoordinated and lacked strong oversight, creating an environment conducive to trafficking.
Recommendations for Kenya: Use the anti-trafficking law to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and punish trafficking offenders, including government officials suspected of complicity in human trafficking; continue to use the anti-trafficking law or Section 14 of the Sexual Offenses Act to prosecute and punish child sex tourists; provide additional training to all levels of the government, particularly law enforcement officials, on identifying and responding to trafficking crimes; establish an official process for law enforcement officials to refer trafficking victims for assistance; continue to increase oversight of and accountability for overseas recruitment agencies; increase protective services available to adult trafficking victims, particularly those identified in and returned from the Middle East; establish and convene the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Advisory Committee to coordinate the government’s anti-trafficking efforts and oversee full implementation of the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2010; establish the board of trustees to oversee the National Assistance Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking and allocate money to endow this fund; and launch and implement the national plan of action.
The government maintained its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period, though corruption and lack of understanding of human trafficking issues among police and other public officials continued to prevent trafficking offenders from being brought to justice. Following the Minister of Gender, Children Affairs, and Social Development’s signing of the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2010 and its publication in the Kenya Gazette in September 2012, the law can now be used to prosecute suspected trafficking offenses. Section 1 of the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act prohibits all forms of trafficking and Section 3(5) prescribes a sufficiently stringent minimum punishment of 15 years’ imprisonment, which is commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. Sections 14, 15, and 17 of the Sexual Offenses Act of 2006 prohibit the facilitation of child sex tourism, child prostitution, and forced prostitution, and prescribe penalties of six to 20 years’ imprisonment—penalties that are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious offenses. However, prosecutors do not widely use these sections.
The Kenyan Police Service’s anti-trafficking unit did not provide information on its efforts to investigate trafficking crimes during the reporting period. The government reported initiating 15 child trafficking prosecutions in 2012, some of which are being prosecuted under the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act in Mombasa, Kisii, Kajiado, Nairobi, and Kisumu, but it provided no additional information to substantiate that they involved human trafficking offenses rather than other types of crimes. According to press reports, corruption among law enforcement authorities and other public officials continued to stymie efforts to bring traffickers to justice; the government made no efforts to investigate or prosecute such public officials. Although the government provided anti-trafficking training to 30 officers from the police, immigration, and relevant ministerial legal departments, this remained inadequate in light of Kenya’s considerable human trafficking problem. Some corrupt Kenyan police officers sought to take advantage of the government directive for refugees to return to camps by threatening to arrest Somalis on false human trafficking charges in order to solicit bribes.
The government’s efforts to identify and protect child trafficking victims continued during the year, but commensurate protection for adults was unavailable, including for the increasing number of victims in the overseas migrant worker population. Neither the Ministry of Gender nor any other ministry received a specific budget allocation for anti-trafficking activities. As guidelines for implementing the victim protection provisions of the anti-trafficking statute have yet to be developed, the government continued to lack a formal mechanism for identifying victims of trafficking among vulnerable populations. Government officials reported the identification of and provision of services to 413 child trafficking victims. The Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Development’s children’s officers rescued child trafficking victims, provided them with counseling and referrals to service providers, and participated in investigations.
The Ministry of Gender and a local NGO continued to operate jointly a national 24-hour toll-free hotline for reporting cases of child trafficking, labor, and abuse, which received nearly 164,000 calls over the course of the year. The hotline’s main call center is located in a government-owned building in Nairobi and staffed, in part, by three children’s officers who facilitated rescues and made referrals to appropriate district officials and health and legal aid organizations in other provinces. During the reporting period, the hotline received 59 reports of child trafficking, 21 reports of child prostitution, and 646 reports of child labor. The hotline’s local call centers in Eldoret and Garissa connected children with locally available services in western and eastern Kenya, respectively. The Ministry of Gender’s Children’s Department continued to operate four drop-in referral centers in Eldoret, Garissa, Malindi, and Mombasa that provided counseling, guidance, and referrals to other centers for victimized children who could not be returned home. This department also funded and operated rescue centers in Garissa, Malindi, Thika, and Machakos where child victims of violence could stay for three months before returning home or being referred to NGO facilities. The government did not provide data on how many trafficking victims were afforded such services during the year.
While efforts to assist and care for child trafficking victims remained strong, the government provided relatively few services to trafficked adults identified within the country or abroad. Although new diplomats received anti-trafficking in persons training from the Kenya Police Service and IOM before being posted overseas, most of Kenya’s diplomatic missions failed to provide adequate assistance to trafficked Kenyan nationals. The Kenyan embassy in Riyadh repatriated 708 Kenyans during 2012 but lacked adequate shelter and other assistance for the number of Kenyans who sought help. The Kenyan media reported that Kenyan nationals waiting to be repatriated slept on the floor of the embassy or in a shipping container and were provided inadequate food. The government publicly called for a draft labor agreement between Saudi Arabia and Kenya to require binding contracts stipulating working hours, time off, remuneration, and the expectations of both employees and employers as a means of addressing the numerous complaints by domestic workers in Saudi Arabia; it is unclear if these additions were made to the draft agreement. Following several high profile cases of abuse, the National Assembly held multiple hearings during 2012 on cases involving the mistreatment of Kenyan domestic workers in Saudi Arabia.
While the government reported that it encouraged Kenyan victims’ cooperation in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking crimes during the reporting period, it did not provide information on such instances. There were no reports that the government inappropriately incarcerated or otherwise penalized Kenyan victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. Under the 2010 anti-trafficking law, the Minister of Gender may grant permission for foreign trafficking victims to remain indefinitely in Kenya if it is believed they would face hardship or retribution upon repatriation; the government did not use this provision during the year.
The government demonstrated modest efforts in preventing human trafficking. The National Steering Committee to Combat Human Trafficking, chaired by the Minister of Gender, only met once during the reporting period. The five-year national plan of action on human trafficking—drafted, finalized, and printed in previous reporting periods—remained unused as it had not been officially launched. In October 2012, the government announced the establishment of the Secretariat of the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Advisory Committee but has yet to convene the committee itself or set up the National Assistance Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking as mandated by the anti-trafficking act. In June 2012, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) banned labor recruitment agencies from sending domestic workers to the Middle East until all agencies could be vetted; the ban was still in place at the end of the reporting period. The Kenyan government intended the ban to prevent Kenyans from experiencing abuse in the Middle East; however, it resulted in an increase in unscrupulous agencies circumventing the ban by recruiting Kenyan girls directly from villages and sending them to Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East through Tanzania and Uganda. Following the implementation of the ban, the MFA must approve the travel of any person seeking employment of any kind in a Middle Eastern country. The Ministry of Labor (MOL), which is required by law to monitor the operations of labor recruitment agencies and attest to employment contracts, continued to fail to fulfill these roles; since the MOL ceased its yearly renewal of recruitment agencies’ accreditation certificates in 2011 without explanation, all agencies have been operating without valid licenses. This has led to agencies sending workers overseas without governmental attestation and vetting of workers’ foreign contracts, leaving them increasingly vulnerable to trafficking. Bribery of government officials by recruitment agencies reportedly hindered efforts to stop fraudulent recruitment.
The government initiated three prosecutions against alleged foreign child sex tourists in 2012, which remained ongoing at the close of the reporting period. Out of court settlements were common, with tourists paying girls’ families to avoid legal action. It is unclear whether the government made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts; the city of Nairobi’s taskforce to address the growing sex trade did not publicly report its actions. The Ministry of Labor’s 95 labor officers conducted 120 child labor inspections but did not provide any information regarding their outcomes or whether they identified any victims of forced child labor. The Kenyan government’s training for troops prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions included a module on human rights that addressed human trafficking.