Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 May 2016, 11:51 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Kenya

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Kenya, 19 June 2012, available at: [accessed 25 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

KENYA (Tier 2 Watch List)

Kenya is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Traffickers, who gain poor families' trust through familial, ethnic, or religious ties, falsely offer to raise and educate children in towns or to place adults in lucrative employment. Within the country, Kenyan children are forced to labor in domestic service, agriculture, fishing, cattle herding, street vending, begging, and the sale of illicit brews. Children are also exploited in prostitution throughout Kenya, including in the coastal sex tourism industry, in the eastern khat cultivation areas, and near Nyanza's gold mines. Children are lured into brothels by promises of jobs as domestic workers in cities, while others are introduced by their families to the sex trade. Brothel-based child prostitution is reportedly increasing in Migori, Homa Bay, and Kisii counties, particularly around markets along the border with Tanzania. Vehicles transporting khat to Somalia return carrying Somali girls and women who often end up in brothels in Nairobi or Mombasa. Both women and "beach boys" as young as 14 pimp children in coastal areas and receive commissions as high as the equivalent of $240 from tourists for each girl secured. Some Kenyan tenant rice farmers work in situations of debt bondage to farm owners or supervisors, often to repay funds that were provided as an advance – for school fees, food, or medical needs – by their employers. Kenyan men, women, and children voluntarily migrate to other East African nations, South Sudan, Europe, the United States, and the Middle East – particularly Saudi Arabia, but also Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Lebanon, and Oman – in search of employment, where they are at times exploited in domestic servitude, massage parlors and brothels, or forced manual labor, including in the construction industry. Officials at the Saudi Arabian embassy in Nairobi allegedly collude with unlicensed recruitment agents to place Kenyans into situations of forced labor in Saudi Arabia. Recruitment of women for overseas domestic work reportedly increased during the year in Mombasa, Nairobi's Eastleigh area, and major towns in Central Province. In 2011, gay and bisexual Kenyan men recounted being lured from universities with promises of overseas jobs, only to be forced into prostitution in Qatar. Children from Burundi, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda are subjected to forced labor and prostitution in Kenya.

The Government of Kenya does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the reporting period, the government's children's officers continued admirable efforts to identify and protect child trafficking victims throughout the country. The government failed, however, to fully enact its anti-trafficking law's implementing regulations, finalize its national plan of action, take tangible action against trafficking complicity among law enforcement officials, provide shelter and other protective services for adult victims, take concrete action against alleged incidences of child sex tourism, monitor the work of overseas labor recruitment agencies, or provide adequate anti-trafficking training to its officials, including diplomats, police, labor inspectors, and children's officers. The government held few trafficking offenders accountable for their crimes in comparison to the significant number of child trafficking victims identified. Therefore, Kenya is placed on Tier 2 Watch List as it did not show evidence of increasing efforts to combat human trafficking. The government's efforts remained uncoordinated and lacked strong oversight, creating an environment conducive to trafficking.

Recommendations for Kenya: Finalize necessary regulations and put in place appropriate structures to fully implement the anti-trafficking statute; use the anti-trafficking law to prosecute trafficking offenses and convict and punish trafficking offenders, including government officials suspected of complicity in human trafficking; use the anti-trafficking law or Section 14 of the Sexual Offenses Act to prosecute and punish child sex tourists; provide additional training to all levels of the government, particularly law enforcement officials and diplomats, on identifying and responding to trafficking crimes; establish an official process for law enforcement officials to refer trafficking victims for assistance; continue to increase oversight of and accountability for overseas recruitment agencies; increase protective services available to adult trafficking victims, particularly those identified in and returned from the Middle East; and approve and implement the national action plan.


The government maintained its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period, though corruption, the absence of an implemented anti-trafficking law, and lack of understanding of human trafficking among police and other public officials continued to prevent most traffickers from being brought to justice. Section 1 of the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act (Act 8 of 2010) prohibits all forms of trafficking and Section 3(5) prescribes a sufficiently stringent minimum punishment of 15 years' imprisonment, which is commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. Section 3(6) prescribes a minimum punishment of 30 years' imprisonment for the aggravated offenses of controlling or financing the commission of human trafficking crimes. In 2011, however, the government did not take the final necessary steps, such as publishing this act in the Kenya Gazette, or enacting necessary implementing regulations, to bring the law into effect. As a result, no trafficking cases have been prosecuted under this law. Sections 14, 15, and 17 of the Sexual Offenses Act of 2006 prohibit the facilitation of child sex tourism (prescribed punishment of at least 10 years' imprisonment), child prostitution (prescribed punishment of at least 10 years' imprisonment), and forced prostitution (prescribed punishment of at least five years' imprisonment). However, prosecutors do not widely use these sections.

The Kenyan Police Service's anti-trafficking unit did not provide information on efforts to investigate trafficking crimes during the reporting period. The government reported initiating 15 human trafficking prosecutions in Mombasa, Kwale, Kajiado, Nairobi, and Kisumu in 2011, but provided no additional information to substantiate that they involved human trafficking offenses rather than smuggling or other types of crimes.

Many trafficking cases did not result in judgments due to weak preparation for prosecution or court officials' receipt of bribes to alter records of testimony. Though the government increased the Ministry of Gender's budget by 43 percent in 2011, funding remained insufficient to provide the transportation necessary for children's officers to carry out quarterly child labor inspections, especially in remote areas. The Ministry of Labor's 30 inspectors did not conduct any child labor inspections and lacked training to identify and address situations of forced labor.

Corruption among law enforcement authorities and other public officials continued to hamper efforts to bring traffickers to justice; in certain regions, corrupt police (including members of the Tourist Police Unit), immigration, or labor officials were reportedly complicit in, received bribes to overlook or confer lesser charges for, or obstructed investigations of human trafficking crimes. Local observers indicated that some suspected traffickers apprehended in police operations were quickly released under dubious circumstances. The government made no efforts to investigate or prosecute officials suspected of involvement in or facilitation of human trafficking during the reporting period. It did not provide anti-trafficking training to law enforcement and other public officials; inadequate understanding of human trafficking by police resulted in, at times, suspects being improperly charged under Kenyan law.


The government's efforts to identify and protect child trafficking victims continued during the year, but commensurate protection was unavailable for adults, including the increasing number of victims in the overseas migrant worker population. As guidelines for implementing the victim protection provisions of the anti-trafficking statute have yet to be developed, the government continued to lack a formal mechanism for identifying victims of trafficking among vulnerable populations. Nevertheless, government officials identified 99 child trafficking victims (23 of whom were in prostitution) in 2011 and provided protective services to all of these victims. The Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Development's children's officers coordinated local Children's Advisory Committees that, as part of their protective mission, monitored service providers and advanced awareness of human trafficking at the local level. During the reporting period, children's officers rescued child trafficking victims, provided them with counseling and referrals to service providers, and participated in investigations. The Ministry of Gender and a local NGO continued to jointly operate a national 24-hour toll-free hotline for reporting cases of child trafficking, labor, and abuse, which received more than 40,000 calls each month. The hotline is located in a government-owned building in Nairobi and staffed, in part, by three children's officers who facilitated rescues and made referrals to appropriate district officials, as well as to health and legal aid organizations, in other provinces. During the reporting period, the hotline received 46 reports of child trafficking, 19 concerning child prostitution, and 497 related to child labor. The hotline's call center in Eldoret connected children with locally-available services in western Kenya. The Ministry of Gender's Children's Department also operated four drop-in referral centers in Mombasa, Malindi, Eldoret, and Garissa that provided counseling and guidance services, as well as referrals to other centers for victimized children that could not be returned home. This department also funded and operated rescue centers in Garissa, Malindi, Thika, and Machakos where child victims of violence could stay for three months before returning home or being referred to NGO facilities. The government did not provide data on how many trafficking victims were afforded such services during the year.

While efforts to assist and care for child trafficking victims remained strong, the government provided relatively few services – including shelter, medical care, or psycho-social counseling – to trafficked adults identified within the country or abroad. Most of Kenya's overseas diplomatic missions failed to provide any assistance to trafficked Kenyan nationals. The Kenyan embassy in Riyadh, however, provided limited repatriation assistance by issuing new travel documents to 460 victims of domestic servitude during the reporting period; other victims, however, complained that the embassy was slow to intervene in their cases, did not expeditiously process travel documents and did not provide material support. The Ministry of Immigration spent the equivalent of $26,500 to return 60 abused migrant workers from Saudi Arabia in 2011. While the government reports it encouraged Kenyan victims' assistance in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking crimes during the reporting period, it did not provide information on such instances. There were no reports that the government inappropriately incarcerated or otherwise penalized Kenyan victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. Police, however, arrested foreign women for engaging in prostitution or being in Kenya without valid identity documents, but did not screen them for trafficking victimization; in most cases, the women pled guilty to immigration violations and were quickly deported. Under the 2010 anti-trafficking law, the Minister of Gender 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 use this provision during the year.


The government made some progress in preventing human trafficking. The National Steering Committee to Combat Human Trafficking, chaired by the Minister of Gender, met three times during the reporting period. The five-year National Action Plan on Human Trafficking, drafted in previous reporting periods, remained without Cabinet approval, as the Counter-Trafficking Act's implementing regulations have not been finalized. District child labor committees, which exist in 30 out of 180 districts, together with children's advisory committees, raised awareness of child trafficking and labor among local populations. Many of these committees, however, existed only nominally, did not meet regularly, and were largely ineffective.

In June 2011, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) issued a directive requiring foreign companies or employment agencies to submit to Kenyan recruitment agencies information regarding the jobs offered, the perspective employers, the terms of service, and remuneration before hiring Kenyans to work abroad. Recruitment agencies' sending of domestic workers for jobs in Saudi Arabia and the UAE received increased attention with parliamentary hearings in July, October, and November 2011. In September 2011, MFA's Department of Host Country and Consular Division, with the Kenya Association of Employment Agents and the Ministry of Youth, provided an awareness session to 1,500 workers migrating to the Middle East, many to be private security guards. In November 2011, the Ministries of Youth, Foreign Affairs, and Labor conducted a sensitization session to provide an unknown number of labor migrants departing for the Middle East with information about their country of destination, their legal rights and employment benefits, and the skills necessary for successful adaptation to the society of their destination. The Ministry of Labor, which is required by law to monitor the operations of labor recruitment agencies and attest to employment contracts, verified 133 contracts in 2011; migrant workers, however, often left Kenya before their contracts had been approved. The ministry's vetting procedures were inconsistently applied and efforts, in conjunction with the MFA, to monitor labor recruitment agencies to prevent fraudulent job offers and other illegal practices were poorly coordinated. The government neither made efforts to close down unlicensed agencies nor to punish agencies utilizing illegal recruitment methods. Bribery of government officials by recruitment agencies reportedly hindered efforts to stop fraudulent recruitment. In late 2011, the Ministry of Labor ceased without explanation its yearly renewal of these agencies' accreditation certificates, resulting in all members of the Kenya Association of Private Employment Agencies operating without valid licenses in early 2012. This also resulted in these agencies' sending workers overseas without governmental attestation and vetting of workers' foreign contracts, which left migrant workers increasingly vulnerable to trafficking.

The government reported that it prosecuted and extradited two foreign pedophiles for child sexual abuse in the Coast region in 2011, but provided no details to confirm whether these cases involved child sex tourism. Police provided no information regarding the investigations of four suspected child sex tourism cases pending at the close of 2010. In October 2011, local organizations and media outlets decried Kisauni police for releasing a German tourist alleged to have sexually exploited a prostituted child; the German was not charged due to lack of evidence. Out of court settlements, however, were common, with tourists paying girls' families to avoid legal action. The government made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. In February 2011, the city of Nairobi formed a taskforce to recommend measures to address the growing sex trade. The Kenyan government's provision of training to troops deploying on international peacekeeping missions included a module on human rights that addressed human trafficking.

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