Kenya risks US sanctions for failing to stem human trafficking

Human Trafficking – The Current Situation

As defined by the United Nations, human trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.

Simply put, human trafficking is modern slavery. Victims are deceived, coerced, and blackmailed into situations where their traffickers profit from the control and exploitation of their victims. Once victims find themselves in a trafficking situation, their identification documents such as passports are often confiscated especially if they have traveled abroad as then it becomes difficult for the victims to return to their country of origin. They may also be under the influence of drugs and they are closely monitored to prevent them from escaping.

Human Trafficking in Kenya

Kenya has the highest rate of human trafficking in both Central and East Africa. As a source, transit, and destination country, Kenyan urban centers such as Nairobi and Mombasa provide both the supply and demand required to grow the industry. Often victims are trafficked either to or through Kenya from neighboring countries such as South Sudan, Somalia, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.

Forced labor is the main form of human trafficking in Kenya, with 41.3% of Kenyan children ages 10-14 years of age being exploited for cheap labor within the country. Once taken, these children are put to work in industries such as agriculture, fishing, cattle herding, street vending and begging. Kenyans are also frequently lured to the Middle East and Europe with the promise of well paid employment. After their arrival, their passports and identification documents are often confiscated and their wages withheld, leaving them at the mercy of their employers.

As determined by the U.S. Department of State, Kenya is currently on the Tier 2 Watch List. Kenya passed a Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act in 2010 but it has been poorly implemented and the Kenyan government has not demonstrated evidence of increased efforts to combat human trafficking. Their efforts remain uncoordinated and lack strong oversight, creating an environment conducive to trafficking.

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