The government maintained uneven protection efforts. The government reported identifying 853 victims of trafficking—275 adult females, 351 girls, and 227 boys—a significant increase compared with at least 400 identified victims in 2018. The majority of victims were subjected to forced labor in 2019. The government did not report identifying any adult male victims in 2019. Officials publicized government-operated trafficking support resources. Utilizing the government’s national referral mechanism and standard operating procedures, the government referred 78 victims (40 children and 38 women) to shelter services. DCI’s Transnational Organized Crime Unit (TOCU) proactively identified 144 trafficking victims during raids and encounters with commercial sex establishments. In April 2019, media reported TOCU raided a restaurant in Mombasa, identified 12 Nepali girls as victims of sex trafficking, and arrested the business owner. Anti-Human Trafficking and Child Protection Unit (AHTCPU) identified child victims were placed in government-run child institutions under the Department of Children’s Services and provided with food, shelter, clothing, and psycho-social care. AHTCPU reported referring some victims to health facilities for medical assistance. NGOs reported the government’s victim support and assistance remained limited and inconsistent.
Victim care varied in quality depending on the age, gender, nationality, and location of the victim. Victims generally had their choice of shelters, except when their security was at risk. The government relied on NGOs to run all safe houses and shelters used to house trafficking victims, with the exception of five government-run child rescue centers to facilitate the support for children who are victims of crimes, including trafficking. Services continued to consist of medical care, psycho-social counseling, rehabilitation and reintegration support, food and clothing, legal aid, and transportation. The government and NGOs across Kenya jointly provided these protective provisions, although sometimes NGOs acted alone when the government was slow or did not respond. NGOs reported limited shelter options for adults and foreign nationals, and those that existed were often ad hoc. The national referral mechanism (NRM) authorized foreign national victims to stay in a shelter up to 90 days. Alternatively, longer-term shelter services required authorization by the Cabinet Secretary; the government did not report providing long-term shelter to foreign victims, but cases awaited consideration at the end of the reporting period. Immigration officials reported repatriating trafficking victims to their countries quickly due to limited availability of shelters and other services. In 2019, an NGO reported providing shelter and legal assistance for 12 Nepali women who were victims of sex trafficking while law enforcement provided security during court proceedings. The government reported assisting in the repatriation of 142 foreign victims. Victim care remained inadequate in the coastal region due to lack of training and resources; NGOs and government officials worked in tandem there to provide trauma counseling, medical services, shelter, and reintegration support for trafficking victims returning from Somalia—some of whom left or fled al-Shabaab—and the Arabian Gulf. NGOs and officials reported that when shelters were limited, law enforcement sometimes housed victims in police stations or other remand homes and shelters.
During the 2019-2020 fiscal year, the National Treasury allocated 20 million Kenyan shillings ($197,530) to the National Assistance Trust Fund for Assisting Victims of Trafficking; however, stakeholders expressed concerns regarding the lack of framework for the fund’s disbursement and that the first disbursement to victims was the outcome of a lawsuit. Overall the government reported a lack of funding inhibited victim protection efforts. Some police officers reported using their personal vehicles for transport to investigations or their personal funds to provide support for identified victims. The government partnered with an NGO to identify and refer to care three children that were victims of sexual exploitation and forced labor in domestic service in Mombasa and Kilifi; the organization then collaborated with the government to reunite the children with their families. Stakeholders working on the NRM’s identification and referral provisions reported a lack of full implementation during the reporting period. The majority of local officials and civil society that received training on the NRM in coastal counties reported better skills in victim identification and referral, and the government reported an increase in referrals between partners. NGOs received referrals from victims or concerned witnesses, police during investigations, and via calls to the national gender-based violence and NGO-run child hotlines. The two national hotlines were operational 24 hours per day, year round. A NGO-run hotline received 11 calls regarding trafficking in 2019.
The government took significant steps to protect and assist Kenyan victims abroad. The government reported facilitating repatriations and providing psycho-social counseling and medical checkups to Kenyan citizens identified as victims abroad. To continue addressing the exploitation of Kenyan nationals abroad, Ministry of Labour and Social Protection (MOL)-assigned labor attachés continued to work in Kenyan diplomatic missions in Qatar, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Saudi Arabia, and assisted an unreported number of citizens employed there. Reportedly, the attachés advocated for Kenyan workers’ rights with host governments, helped identify trafficking victims, resolved workplace disputes, provided identity documents, and partnered with licensed employment agencies to find legitimate work opportunities for Kenyans. The government continued to provide ad hoc monetary and logistical support for repatriation of its citizens subjected to trafficking outside Kenya; more often it relied upon NGOs and international organizations to coordinate and fund the repatriation. Observers noted many victims and their families funded their return rather than wait for the government’s repatriation assistance. In 2019, NGOs assisted the government in the repatriation of Kenyan women who were victims of forced labor in the Middle East and India.
Authorities reportedly penalized victims for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit. Although the government reported screening vulnerable groups, especially children and women, for trafficking indicators during law enforcement raids or encounters with commercial sex establishments, NGOs across Kenya reported potential victims were sometimes charged with commercial sex crimes or labor violations. Observers reported that, in 2019, 10 victims of sex trafficking were charged for publishing pornographic materials in Mombasa. Authorities punished foreign national trafficking victims for violating immigration laws, often detaining them for deportation. The Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act required a victim to give consent for their trafficking case and throughout each step of the investigation and criminal proceedings. The government had formal procedures to encourage victims’ cooperation in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking crimes, but did not report how many victims utilized the victim witness protection program. Victims had access to courtrooms fitted with equipment to protect the victim’s identity. Victims also had the ability to leave the country, be employed, and move freely within the country pending trial proceedings after they testified. Even though victims’ benefits were not linked to a foreign victim’s law enforcement participation or whether the trafficker was convicted, officials noted the lack of victim services as a barrier to court cases and due to repatriation, victims often could not serve as witnesses. NGOs reported witnesses appeared to have been intimidated, disappeared, or did not appear in court for fear of re-victimization. In August 2019, an NGO sued the government for failing to provide adequate care and protection to five foreign nationals. The NGO also sued the government for forcing victims to testify in court or face deportation, failing to provide NGOs reimbursement for victim care, and not providing adequate shelter and protection to victims and social service personnel; at the end of December 2019, the government agreed to pay to repatriate the five victims following mediation. Under the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act, officials 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 report using this provision during the reporting period and an NGO reported the government requested victims apply for asylum instead. NGOs reported the government sometimes placed victims in refugee camps. Sometimes authorities obtained protective custodial orders for victims from courts to formalize protection service provisions pending repatriation. Under the Employment Act, trafficking victims could file civil suits against traffickers for damages; however, no suits were reported in 2019.