The government decreased victim protection efforts. The government reported identifying 383 victims of trafficking—51 adult males, 176 adult females, 104 boys, and 52 girls—a significant decrease compared with identifying 853 victims in 2019. Of the 227 adult victims identified, 150 were Kenyans exploited in or in transit to Middle East countries, including Iraq, or India. Other adult victims included Kenyans and foreign nationals, primarily from Ethiopia, Uganda, and Burundi, exploited within the country. In 2019, TOCU proactively identified 144 trafficking victims during raids of commercial sex establishments; however, the government did not report taking such actions during the reporting period. NGOs reported identifying at least 363 victims during the reporting period. The government maintained a national referral mechanism (NRM) that outlined guidelines for victim identification and referral to services and reported regularly screening returnees from Gulf states; however, the government did not fully implement the NRM, and local authorities continued to bypass the NRM and directly contact NGOs to provide victim assistance.
The government reported partnering with various NGOs to offer routine assistance to 134 victims (77 adults and 57 children), including medical care, psycho-social counseling, reintegration support, and legal assistance; however, NGOs reported that, in some cases, the government acted too slowly or not at all, necessitating action solely by NGOs. The government referred 112 victims (37 adults and 75 children) to shelter services, compared with 78 victims referred to shelter in 2019. The government did not operate any trafficking-specific shelters and continued to rely on NGOs to provide this service during the reporting period. The government continued to operate five child protection centers throughout the country, but it did not report if these centers housed trafficking victims during the reporting period. Protection services for adult victims remained scarce, and NGOs reported that the government’s overall victim assistance remained limited and inconsistent in quality. NGOs and government officials in coastal regions partnered 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 Gulf states; however, victim care remained scarce in coastal regions due to a lack of training and resources. In response to the pandemic, some NGO shelters and government-run centers acted as quarantine or testing centers or had limited capacity due to social distancing measures; the government reported this decreased its ability to refer all victims to care. The government also reported pandemic-related measures, such as travel restrictions, mandatory quarantine and testing, social distancing, and curfews, decreased the ability for the government to provide in-person care. However, NGOs expressed concern over long-standing protection gaps made worse by the pandemic, inhibiting the government from providing appropriate care to victims during the reporting period. Despite reliance on civil society organizations to provide victim services, the government did not report providing financial or in-kind support to such organizations. Officials noted that overall funding to combat trafficking remained inadequate, alleging that officers sometimes used their personal funds to provide support to victims. During the 2020-2021 fiscal year, the National Treasury allocated 20 million Kenyan shillings ($183,320) to the National Assistance Trust Fund for Assisting Victims of Trafficking, the same amount as the previous fiscal year. The government reported dispersing 1.8 million Kenyan shillings ($16,500) from the fund to screen 314 Kenyan migrant workers repatriated from the Middle East; the government also used the fund to provide counseling and other protection services to at least 80 victims identified through the screening process. While courts ordered payments to victims from the fund for the first time in December 2019, stakeholders reported the government did not utilize the fund to provide direct payments to victims during the reporting period.
To address the exploitation of Kenyan nationals abroad, the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection (MOL) continued to employ labor attachés in Kenyan diplomatic missions in Qatar, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Saudi Arabia. Reportedly, the attachés advocated for Kenyan workers’ rights with host governments, screened workers for trafficking indicators, resolved workplace disputes, provided identity documents, and partnered with licensed employment agencies to find legitimate work opportunities for Kenyans; the government reported the attachés coordinated with the MOL, National Employment Authority (NEA), and Ministry of Foreign Affairs to assist in victim identification and repatriation during the reporting period. In 2020, media reported that numerous Kenyan women employed as domestic workers in Lebanon may have been victims of trafficking; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reportedly sent a fact-finding mission to investigate the allegations, but the government did report any findings or specific actions taken. In 2020, NGOs assisted the government to repatriate Kenyan trafficking victims exploited in Bahrain, Tanzania, Saudi Arabia, and Uganda. The government provided foreign victims of trafficking with similar protective services as Kenyan nationals, particularly immediate needs like shelter and counseling; however, authorities did not provide longer-term shelter or residency benefits to foreign victims. Senior officials reported that authorities often quickly returned trafficking victims to their countries of origin due to the limited availability of shelters and other services. The law allowed officials to grant permission for foreign trafficking victims to remain indefinitely in Kenya if they would face hardship or retribution upon repatriation; the government did not report using this provision during the reporting period. NGOs reported the government sometimes placed victims in refugee camps, where their freedom of movement was restricted. Authorities sometimes obtained protective custodial orders for victims from courts to formalize protection service provisions pending repatriation. In 2020, the government reported assisting in the repatriation of at least 113 foreign victims, compared with 142 repatriations in 2019.
The government maintained a Witness Protection Agency that offered protection to victims participating in investigations and prosecutions, and the government did not report providing this support to trafficking victims during the reporting period. Additionally, contrary to previous reporting, the government did not have formal procedures to encourage victims’ voluntary participations in investigations and prosecutions. Some courtrooms had facilities or equipment that allowed victims to provide testimony via video, one-way glass, or written statements; however, these services were not available in all courtrooms. Foreign victims had the ability to leave the country, seek employment, and move freely within the country pending trial proceedings after they testified. Even though victims’ benefits were not linked to 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 frequent repatriation or deportation, victims often could not serve as witnesses. Under the Employment Act and the 2010 anti-trafficking law, trafficking victims could file civil suits against traffickers for damages; however, the government did not report any civil suits filed in 2020.
Authorities reportedly penalized victims for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit. NGOs across Kenya continued to report that potential victims within vulnerable groups, particularly adults in commercial sex, were sometimes charged with commercial sex crimes or labor violations. In recent years, authorities punished foreign national trafficking victims for violating immigration laws, often detaining or deporting them without screening for trafficking indicators; however, immigration officials reported enhancing coordination between national officials and local authorities to protect potential trafficking victim from penalization. NGOs reported witnesses appeared to have been intimidated, disappeared, or did not appear in court for fear of re-victimization. In 2020, an independent institution reported that authorities detained more than a third of migrants for being in the country without proper documentation; under this approach, officials sometimes detained potential trafficking victims without proper screening or provision of assistance. The same report alleged the government regularly held potential victims awaiting repatriation in detention. Officials and NGOs reported the government often placed adult trafficking victims in prisons or detention centers due to the lack of shelters available for adult victims; authorities sometimes placed child victims in centers for juvenile offenders until officials found a shelter or safe house with space available. In August 2019, an NGO sued the government for failing to meet its international and national obligations to protect victims of human trafficking; the case remained ongoing at the end of the reporting period.