The COVID 19 pandemic has increased the number of people at risk of human trafficking as traffickers took advantage of the social and economic crisis created by the global outbreak.
Speaking as the world commemorated the world day against trafficking persons, Labour and Social protection Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui said most resources and efforts have been directed to the fight against the coronavirus with capacity of most actors response to human trafficking greatly challenged.
“Victims of trafficking and irregular labor migrants have found themselves in more difficult situations as the economic instability occasioned by COVID-19 that rendered them more vulnerable,” he said in a speech read on his behalf by the Chief Administrative Secretary Patrick Ole Ntutu.
The CS said that even though Kenya has been identified as a source, transit and destination country for cross-border trafficking, major strides have been made in the fight against trafficking in persons guided by the globally agreed upon action plan parameters of Prevention, Protection, Prosecution and Partnerships.
“Kenya has remained in Tier 2 of the United States, Department of State Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report for the last five consecutive years meaning that, although Kenya is making significant efforts to address trafficking in persons, it still does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking,” Chelugui said.
However, he noted that despite the COVID 19 pandemic, the 2020 report indicates that the country has demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period.
In Kenya, the most prevalent forms of trafficking are labour and sexual related, at 44 percent and 53 percent respectively according to the National Crime Research Centre report 2015.
The most prevalent internal trafficking in persons affecting children is in domestic labour, where they are moved from rural to urban areas and from July 2020 to date, 1143 cases of child labour have been reported on the Child Protection Information Management System (CPIMS). Out of these cases, 50.3 percent were girls and 49.7 percent were boys.
“Since trafficking is a transnational crime, there is need to improve on the inter-country and cross-border cooperation for us to succeed in this fight,” Chelugui said.
He explained that Kenya is a signatory to the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons especially women and children, popularly known as per the Palermo Protocol that the country domesticated through the Counter Trafficking in Persons Act, 2010. The Act is currently under review to align it with the Constitution 2010 and incorporate emerging issues in Trafficking in Persons.
Chelugui said the Government’s policy on free primary education and 100 percent transition to secondary school has positively impacted on many children who could have been victims of trafficking for labour. He also lauded government’s efforts in eradicating retrogressive cultural practices that contribute to trafficking of children such as Female Genital Mutilation and child marriage.
Some of the Government achievements towards countering trafficking in persons, the CS explained, is the Implementation of the Counter Trafficking in Persons Act, 2010 through establishment of the multi-agency Counter Trafficking in Persons Advisory Committee that coordinates counter trafficking in person’s activities.
The government, he added has also operationalized the National Assistance Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking, developed a National Referral Mechanism for assisting victims of human trafficking which provides guidelines for a standardized system of identification, assessment, referral, holistic support, assistance and reintegration of victims of trafficking in Kenya.
“To reduce vulnerability, the Government has also put in place various social protection programmes including the Inua Jamii Cash Transfer Programme that targets Older Persons, Orphans and Vulnerable Children and Persons with Severe Disability, some of whom are in the category most vulnerable to trafficking,” Chelugui said.
Similarly, he added that the Ministry has been vetting all local private employment recruitment agencies through an inter-ministerial committee, to make sure that any Kenyan going to work in the foreign market does so within the law and is well protected.
The Ministry, Chelugui said, is committed to fight against human trafficking and will continue to provide leadership in the sector by strengthening partnerships, reviewing of the current laws, victim protection, prosecution of traffickers, capacity building of law enforcement agencies and creation of awareness to communities, more so the segments at higher risk of trafficking namely children, women, migrants, refugees and Internally Displaced Persons.
“Human trafficking is not only an injustice to the victim, but it is an injustice unto the families and friends of that victim. Let us therefore work together in protecting their rights and to end human trafficking in our country and the world at large,” Chelugui said.
During the event that was hybrid, two victims of human trafficking: Mr. Masudi Kuasha and Somoe Ali narrated their ordeal after they left the country for greener pastures. “I was to be a driver when I landed in Saudi Arabia but it turned out to be a sales position and when I was involved in an accident I was not compensated since I was a foreigner,” Masudi said.
For Ms. Somoe Ali hers was a case of sexual exploitation and she returned home dejected. “I want to urge the government to curb fake recruitment agencies, build safe houses for returnee victims with doctors and counsellors and employ more attaches abroad.
The theme for this year’s celebration, “Victims’ Voices Lead the way,” puts the victims of human trafficking persons at the center of the campaign and highlights the importance of listening to, and learning from survivors of human trafficking.
Institutions that convened to commemorate the world day against human trafficking at the ministries headquarter in Nairobi were Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP), International Labour Organization (ILO), International Organization for Migration (IOM), United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and National Assistance Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking.
By Wangari Ndirangu