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Kenya (Tier 2)

The Government of Kenya does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared with the previous reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Kenya remained on Tier 2. These efforts included investigating more trafficking crimes, prosecuting and convicting significantly more traffickers, and identifying more trafficking victims. The government provided limited services to significantly more victims through partnerships with NGOs and reported dispersing more funds from the National Assistance Trust Fund for Assisting Victims of Trafficking to provide victim protection services and support an NGO-owned shelter. The government also reported increasing services for victims participating in the criminal justice process, such as the ability to provide written testimonies, to prevent re-traumatization. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Protection services for victims, particularly adults, remained limited and inconsistent in quality. The government continued to rely on civil society to provide most victim services, including all shelter services, and did not provide adequate in-kind or financial support to these efforts. Due to the lack of screening among vulnerable populations, including foreign migrants and individuals in commercial sex, and inadequate shelter availability, authorities sometimes detained or deported potential trafficking victims. Despite sustained concerns of official complicity in trafficking crimes, which hindered both law enforcement efforts and victim identification, the government did not report any law enforcement action against allegedly complicit officials. Government efforts to protect Kenyan trafficking victims abroad, particularly migrant workers, remained minimal, and the government did not report any efforts to hold fraudulent recruitment agencies criminally accountable for facilitating trafficking crimes.

  • Continue to increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, including complicit officials, and seek significant prison terms for convicted traffickers.
  • Fully implement the national referral mechanism (NRM) by encouraging law enforcement officials to formally refer trafficking victims for assistance and ensuring protection services are available for all victims, including adults, foreign nationals, and Kenyans exploited abroad.
  • Systematically and proactively identify trafficking victims by screening vulnerable populations, such as refugees, asylum-seekers, individuals in commercial sex, and all foreign national workers, including those from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Cuba, for trafficking indicators and refer all trafficking victims to appropriate services.
  • Establish a shelter dedicated for trafficking victims to receive specialized care or increase funding or in-kind resources to NGO-run shelters.
  • Amend the anti-trafficking law to remove sentencing provisions that allow fines in lieu of imprisonment for sex trafficking offenses.
  • Continue to increase protective services for victims participating in the criminal justice process to prevent re-traumatization.
  • Develop, adopt, and implement an updated national action plan (NAP) to combat trafficking.
  • Consistently enforce strong regulations and oversight of labor recruitment agencies, including by eliminating recruitment fees charged to migrant workers, holding fraudulent labor recruiters criminally accountable, and training inspectors to report potential violations to the appropriate officials.
  • Expand training to all levels of the government, specifically to law enforcement personnel and local authorities in rural and coastal regions, on identifying, investigating, and managing trafficking cases.
  • Increase data collection and data sharing among relevant agencies to synthesize and analyze nationwide law enforcement and victim protection data related to trafficking crimes.

The government increased overall anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2010 criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of 30 years to life imprisonment, a fine of not less than 30 million Kenyan shillings (Ksh) ($265,370), or both. These penalties were sufficiently stringent. However, by allowing for a fine in lieu of imprisonment for sex trafficking, these penalties were not commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. Sections 14 and 15 of the Sexual Offenses Act of 2006 criminalized the facilitation of child sex tourism and “child prostitution” and prescribed punishment of no less than 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 2 million Ksh ($17,690). The government, in partnership with an international organization, reportedly drafted an amendment to the 2010 anti-trafficking act to remove the option of a fine in lieu of imprisonment; however, the amendment had not been sent to Parliament at the end of the reporting period.

The government’s overall data collection and reporting on anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts remained weak; additionally, the government provided some data outside of the current reporting period without a mechanism to disaggregate. In 2021, the government investigated 47 trafficking cases, including five child sex trafficking cases, 17 child labor trafficking cases, and 25 cases where the exploitation was unknown, a significant increase compared with 18 investigations in 2020. The government reported 26 trafficking investigations from previous years remained ongoing; however, the government did not provide an update on these cases. The government reported prosecuting at least 115 individuals from July 2020 to June 2021, a significant increase compared with at least 46 individuals prosecuted from July 2019 to June 2020; however, some of the prosecution data provided fell outside of the current reporting period. The government reported at least 11 prosecutions from previous reporting periods remained ongoing; however, the government did not report updates on these cases. Courts convicted 32 traffickers, 30 under the 2010 anti-trafficking law and two under the 2011 immigration act, a significant increase compared with six total convictions in 2020. Courts sentenced convicted traffickers to varying degrees of punishment but did not provide sentencing data for all convictions; in one sex trafficking case, courts sentenced a trafficker to 30 years’ imprisonment, while in another sex trafficking case, a judge issued a ruling of a fine of 3.5 million Ksh ($30,960) to be deposited in National Assistance Trust Fund for Assisting Victims of Trafficking in lieu of the initial sentence of three years’ imprisonment, citing pandemic-related health concerns in prisons. Courts acquitted six suspected traffickers during the reporting period for unspecified reasons. While anti-trafficking specific law enforcement units continued to operate throughout the pandemic, the government reported that pandemic-related restrictions, such as office closures, national curfews, and social distancing requirements, created operational challenges to law enforcement actions.

In 2021, NGOs and international organizations provided regular trainings to several hundred prosecutorial and judicial officials, border guards, police officers, and immigration agents on how to detect and respond to trafficking crimes in their respective capacities; the government provided varying degrees of logistical support for these trainings. The government, in partnership with an international organization, developed standard operating procedures (SOPs) on investigations and prosecutions involving Kenyans exploited in forced labor in Gulf states; the government also developed a reference guide for prosecutors to use when prosecuting cases under the 2010 anti-trafficking act. In December 2021, the government cooperated with the Government of the Netherlands and INTERPOL to arrest and extradite an Eritrean-Dutch alleged trafficker.

The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses; however, corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action during the year. Police officers continued to accept bribes to warn traffickers of impending operations and investigations, particularly along the coast, and officials reported perpetrators sometimes escaped conviction by bribing magistrates and court officials or intimidating or paying witnesses to make false statements. Observers alleged that criminal syndicates colluded with various law enforcement and immigration departments to transport trafficking victims within Kenya. Traffickers continued to easily obtain fraudulent identity documents from complicit officials, particularly at border checkpoints. Civil society reported one case in which officials permitted a Kenyan police officer, originally identified as a perpetrator in a potential trafficking case, to testify as a witness against foreign national perpetrators in the case; the government did not report any action taken against the allegedly complicit police officer.

The government maintained victim protection efforts. The government identified 482 victims of trafficking—45 adult females, 111 boys, and 326 girls—compared with 383 victims identified in 2020. Of the 482 victims identified in the country, traffickers exploited 217 in forced labor and 265 in unspecified exploitation; 398 were Kenyan, while 84 were foreign nationals primarily from neighboring countries and South Asia. The government identified only one Kenyan victim exploited abroad, compared with 150 in the previous reporting period. The government continued to use its SOPs for victim identification, and the Counter Trafficking in Persons Secretariat (CTiP Secretariat) reported partnering with immigration officers to screen for trafficking indicators among foreign migrants involved in migrant smuggling cases.

The government had an NRM that outlined guidelines for victim referral to services; 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 350 victims (45 adults and 305 children), including medical care, psycho-social counseling, legal assistance, and repatriation for foreign victims, compared with providing services to 134 victims in 2020. The government also reported referring 85 victims (45 adults and 40 children) to shelter, compared with 112 victims referred to shelter in 2020. The government did not operate any trafficking-specific shelters and continued to rely on NGOs to provide shelter to victims. The Department of Children’s Services continued to operate five centers—located in Garissa, Kisumu, Machakos, Nairobi, and Thika—used to house potential child trafficking victims; the government reported providing temporary shelter to 47 potential victims. Protection services for adult victims remained scarce, and NGOs reported that the government’s overall victim assistance remained limited and inconsistent in quality. In response to the ongoing 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, work-from-home orders, and curfews, continued to hamper the ability of the government to provide in-person care. However, NGOs sustained concerns over long-standing protection gaps further exacerbated by the pandemic, inhibiting the government from providing appropriate care to victims. Despite reliance on civil society organizations to provide victim services, the government provision of financial or in-kind support to such organizations remained minimal. Officials reported overall funding to combat trafficking remained inadequate, noting that government officials sometimes used their personal funds to provide support to victims. During the 2021-2022 fiscal year, the National Treasury allocated 20 million Ksh ($176,910) to the National Assistance Trust Fund for Assisting Victims of Trafficking, the same amount as the previous fiscal year. The government reported dispersing more than 10.3 million Ksh ($91,110) from the fund to repatriate foreign victims identified in Kenya and to purchase supplies for one NGO-run shelter; this was a significant increase compared with 1.8 million Ksh ($15,920) dispersed from the fund in the previous reporting period. The CTiP Secretariat began drafting new guidelines for the disbursement of these funds to enhance its use.

To address the exploitation of Kenyan nationals abroad, the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection’s National Employment Authority (NEA) 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 did not report specific actions taken by the attachés during the reporting period. The NEA added a feature on its website for overseas workers to report exploitation, including potential trafficking crimes, and request assistance. 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 not report any findings or specific actions taken for the second consecutive year.

The government maintained its Witness Protection Agency (WPA) that offered protection to victims participating in investigations and prosecutions; however, officials reported WPA remained without sufficient staffing or funding to provide adequate assistance to victims. 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 national victims had the ability to leave the country, seek employment, and move freely within the country pending trial proceedings. The government provided these options to victims during the reporting period; in one case involving Nepali victims, courts allowed the victims to provide written testimony and return to their home country prior to the end of the trial to avoid re-traumatization. Even though victims’ benefits were not linked to law enforcement participation or whether the trafficker was convicted, officials noted the lack of long-term victim services was a barrier to participation in court cases, and due to frequent repatriation or deportation, victims often could not serve as witnesses. The law allowed officials to grant permission for foreign national trafficking victims to remain indefinitely in Kenya if they would face hardship or retribution upon repatriation; however, senior officials and NGOs previously reported that authorities often quickly returned trafficking victims to their countries of origin due to the limited availability of shelters and other services. 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 2021. NGOs reported the government sometimes placed victims in refugee camps, where their freedom of movement was restricted.

Authorities reportedly penalized victims for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit. NGOs across Kenya continued to report officials sometimes charged potential trafficking victims within vulnerable groups, particularly adults in commercial sex, with commercial sex crimes or labor violations. Authorities reportedly punished foreign national trafficking victims for violating immigration laws, often detaining or deporting them without screening for trafficking indicators. NGOs reported witnesses appeared to have been intimidated, disappeared, or did not appear in court for fear of re-victimization. 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 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.

The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. The CTiP Secretariat, the operational arm of the Counter Trafficking in Persons Advisory Committee, continued to spearhead government efforts to combat trafficking. In October 2021, oversight of the CTiP Secretariat shifted from the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection to the Ministry of Public Service, Gender, Senior Citizen Affairs, and Special Programs. Despite the change in oversight, observers reported the CTiP Secretariat was still staffed by children’s officers, which may have limited its focus to address trafficking of adults. The CTiP Secretariat reportedly had dedicated funding in the national budget, but the government did not provide the total amount of anti-trafficking funding allocated for the second consecutive year. Civil society and other stakeholders reported the CTiP Secretariat continued to engage them more regularly than in prior years; however, observers noted that the CTiP Secretariat did not have sufficient staffing or funding, hindering progress on new anti-trafficking efforts and publication of required reporting on government efforts. The National Coordination Mechanism on Migration (NCM), chaired by the Department of Immigration, maintained responsibility for managing national coordination on migration issues, including addressing allegations of forced labor of Kenyans abroad. While the CTiP Secretariat and NCM regularly coordinated, some stakeholders reported the two groups had overlapping mandates, which created confusion and discrepancies on which mechanisms were most effective. Officials continued to operate under the 2013-2017 NAP, although it formally expired in 2018. The government did not operationalize its draft 2019-2022 NAP for the third consecutive year. The government continued to implement the National Plan of Action Against Sexual Exploitation of Children 2018-2022, which included efforts to prevent child sex trafficking, by conducting awareness campaigns targeting hotel operators in tourist destinations. In partnership with civil society, the government held awareness campaigns targeting populations vulnerable to trafficking at border crossings and in coastal areas. The government, in partnership with an NGO, continued to operate a 24-hour hotline to report child abuse and exploitation, including child trafficking. In 2021, the government reported identifying at least 12 cases of suspected child trafficking through the hotline, compared with 16 cases identified in 2020.

The NEA continued to regulate labor migration and other labor-related matters, including labor trafficking; however, officials noted a lack of leadership, uneven regulation enforcement, and corruption hindered NEA operations. The NEA had a total of 504 registered private employment agencies, compared with 320 registered agencies at the end of the previous reporting period. Although the government made efforts to vet recruitment agencies, NEA officials reported more unregistered agencies remained in operation than registered agencies. The NEA continued to require recruitment agencies to pay into a security fund intended to cover airfare for Kenyan migrant workers, including potential trafficking victims, in need of repatriation due to exploitative situations. NGOs reported the use of the security fund was minimal and migrant workers regularly sought other means of assistance due to the government’s lengthy process to address complaints. Government regulations continued to allow recruiting agencies to charge migrant workers a recruitment fee of up to one month’s salary. As in previous years, NEA utilized an e-platform for recruitment and placement of Kenyans migrating to Saudi Arabia to promote a safe migration process; however, observers continued to report that Kenyan officials negotiated a pay rate lower than the Saudi Arabian minimum wage, making Kenyan migrant workers vulnerable to trafficking. The government required migrant workers to attend a pre-departure training course that included information on human trafficking and migrant rights; it also included specific homecare management training for domestic workers. NGOs reported recruitment agencies bribed labor officials to bypass required procedures, including allowing recruitment agents to sign the contract on the worker’s behalf when the worker did not appear in person. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel or make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Kenya, and traffickers exploit victims from Kenya abroad. Traffickers exploit children in forced labor in domestic service, agriculture, fishing, cattle herding, street vending, and forced begging. Traffickers exploit women and children in sex trafficking, often facilitated by family members in informal settings, throughout Kenya, including in sex tourism in Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kisumu. In 2020, an international NGO reported there are between 35,000 and 40,000 victims of sex trafficking, including child sex tourism, in Kenya, of which approximately 19,000 are children; most perpetrators are Kenyan and, to a lesser extent, foreign tourists. Government officials and NGOs report traffickers increasingly exploit children in sex trafficking in private villas and vacation homes to avoid law enforcement detection in hotels. Workers in Khat cultivation areas and near gold mines in western Kenya, truck drivers along major highways, and fishermen on Lake Victoria also exploit children in sex trafficking. During the pandemic, traffickers increasingly exploited children in sex trafficking, including using online recruitment tactics, and in forced labor in domestic work and forced begging. Employment agencies, both legal and fraudulent, recruit Kenyans to work in the Middle East (particularly Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, and Oman), Central and Southeast Asia, Europe, Northern Africa, and North America, where traffickers exploit them in massage parlors, brothels, domestic servitude, or manual labor; Kenyans who voluntarily migrate in search of employment opportunities are also vulnerable to exploitative conditions. Observers report foreign employers often hold migrant workers’ salaries until the completion of their contract period to coerce them to stay longer, and in some cases, employers sell migrant workers to another employer without a legal change in the employment contract, increasing their vulnerability to trafficking. Criminals involved in terrorist networks lure and recruit Kenyan adults and children to join non-state armed groups, primarily al-Shabaab, in Somalia, sometimes with fraudulent promises of lucrative employment.

Kenya hosts more than 500,000 refugees and asylum-seekers, primarily located in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kalobeyei Integrated Settlement, and Dadaab Refugee Complex. Refugees are generally required to live within the camps with restricted movement and limited access to education and livelihood opportunities, increasing their vulnerability to labor and sex trafficking; children and LGBTQI+ persons in refugee camps are especially vulnerable. Nairobi-based labor recruiters maintain networks in Uganda and Ethiopia that recruit Burundian, Ethiopian, Rwandan, and Ugandan workers through fraudulent offers of employment in the Middle East and Asia. Kenya continues to serve as a transit point for migrants seeking work in South Africa, leaving these populations vulnerable to exploitation; traffickers exploit transient Ethiopians in forced labor and Burundian and Rwandan women in domestic servitude. Ugandan and Nigerian traffickers exploit Kenyan women in sex trafficking in Thailand. Authorities reported business owners and employers exploit Ugandan girls, particularly from the Karamojong region, in sex trafficking and forced labor in Nairobi’s Eastleigh neighborhood. NGOs reported that during the pandemic, employers forcibly removed foreign national domestic workers from their homes, leaving them trapped in the country due to pandemic-related travel restrictions and border closures; unable to find new work due to economic scarcity or a safe way home; these individuals are increasingly vulnerable to trafficking. Recruiters use debt-based coercion to force South Asian women, primarily from Nepal, India, and Pakistan, to work in mujra dance clubs in Nairobi and Mombasa, where traffickers force them to pay off debts by engaging in commercial sex. Traffickers exploit Somali women and girls in sex trafficking in brothels in Nairobi and Mombasa. Increasingly, traffickers bring children and individuals with physical disabilities from Tanzania and other neighboring countries to exploit them in forced begging; traffickers often coerce foreign victims to serve as facilitators to further such trafficking schemes. Cuban medical professionals working in Kenya may have been forced to work by the Cuban government. PRC nationals employed in Kenya at worksites affiliated with the PRC’s Belt and Road Initiative were vulnerable to forced labor, particularly in construction.

U.S. Department of State

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