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. Within the country, Kenyan children are forced to labor in domestic service, agriculture, fishing, cattle herding, street vending, and begging. Children – both girls and boys – are also exploited in prostitution throughout Kenya, including in the coastal sex tourism industry; at times, their prostitution is facilitated by women in prostitution, "beach boys," and sometimes their parents. Kenyan children are exploited in prostitution by those working in sectors such as khat (a mild narcotic) cultivation areas, near Nyanza's gold mines, along the coast by truck drivers transporting stones from quarries, and by fishermen on Lake Victoria. Kenyans voluntarily migrate to other East African nations, South Sudan, Europe, the United States, and the Middle East – particularly Saudi Arabia, but also to Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Lebanon, and Oman – in search of employment, where at times they are exploited in domestic servitude, massage parlors and brothels, or forced manual labor. Gay and bisexual Kenyan men are lured from universities with promises of overseas jobs, only to be forced into prostitution and sex trafficking in Qatar and the UAE. Nairobi-based labor recruiters maintain networks in Uganda that recruit Rwandan and Ugandan workers through fraudulent offers of employment in the Middle East and Asia. Kenyan women are subjected to forced prostitution in Thailand by Ugandan and Nigerian traffickers.

Children from Burundi, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking in Kenya; Kenyan children may endure similar exploitation in these countries. The security situation in Dadaab – Kenya's largest refugee camp complex that is host to hundreds of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers – did not allow for full humanitarian access, assistance, or protective services. Somali refugees living in the Dadaab complex have reported the presence of al-Shabaab recruiters; a 2012 survey by a local NGO found that fear of recruitment into this armed group, particularly among children, was a key concern in the camps. Some children in Kenya-based refugee camps, the majority of whom are Somali, may endure sex trafficking, while others are taken outside the camps and forced to work on tobacco farms. Trucks transporting goods from Kenya to Somalia returned to Kenya with young girls and women placed into brothels in Nairobi or Mombasa. Indian women recruited to work in mujra dance clubs in Nairobi face debt bondage, which they are forced to pay off by dancing and performing sex acts.

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. The government has not shown evidence of increasing efforts to address human trafficking compared to the previous year; therefore, Kenya is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a third consecutive year. Kenya was granted a waiver from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3 because its government has a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, and it has committed to devoting sufficient resources to implement that plan. During the reporting period, the government identified 47 victims in four of Kenya's 47 counties, as nationwide data was unavailable. In addition, the government reported prosecution of 30 trafficking cases and conviction of seven traffickers involved in the exploitation of children in forced begging and sex trafficking schemes. To better regulate overseas labor recruitment, the government conducted inspections of 389 of an estimated 500 active recruitment agencies before and after lifting a ban, in November 2013, on Kenyans departing to the Middle East as domestic workers. Nonetheless, the government failed to provide adequate protective services to adult victims trafficked within the country or identified in situations of forced labor or prostitution overseas. Although the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act went into effect in October 2012, the government has not yet demonstrated sufficient political will to fully implement the act. In March 2014, the government nominated members to the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Advisory Committee – whose establishment is mandated by the Act – but the body has not yet met and failed to coordinate any government efforts in 2013. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and Department of Children's Services (DCS) engaged in public education outreach to sensitize the public – including labor recruitment agencies, potential labor migrants, children, parents, and school teachers – to human trafficking issues and awareness of the Counter-Trafficking Act. The police force remained without sufficient resources to enforce the anti-trafficking act. Law enforcement efforts and government funding remained inadequate in light of Kenya's significant trafficking problem.

Recommendations for Kenya:

Use the anti-trafficking law to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, and convict and punish trafficking offenders, including government officials suspected of complicity in human trafficking; continue to 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 first-line responders, on identifying and handling trafficking crimes; allocate adequate resources to police, labor, and social services staff to ensure implementation of the prosecution and protection mandates within the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2010; 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; organize routine meetings of the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Advisory Committee to ensure progress in the government's efforts to fully implement the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2010 and increase effective coordination; establish the board of trustees to oversee the National Assistance Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking and allocate money to endow this fund; institute a unified system for collecting trafficking case data for use by all stakeholders; and launch and implement the national plan of action.


The government maintained modest anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, though corruption and lack of understanding of human trafficking issues among police and other public officials continued to prevent trafficking offenders – including those involved in fraudulent recruitment for overseas employment – from being brought to justice. Section 1 of the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2010, which came into force in September 2012, prohibits all forms of trafficking and Section 3(5) prescribes a sufficiently stringent minimum punishment of 15 years' imprisonment, which is commensurate with that of other serious crimes, such as rape. Sections 14, 15, and 17 of the Sexual Offenses Act of 2006 prohibit the facilitation of child sex tourism, child prostitution, and forced prostitution, and prescribe penalties of six to 20 years' imprisonment – penalties that are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious offenses. However, prosecutors rarely pursue cases under these provisions of the act.

The Kenyan Police Service's Department of Criminal Investigations did not track its efforts to investigate trafficking crimes in 2013. However, the Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP) provided partial data for five of Kenya's 47 counties, reporting prosecution of 30 cases of trafficking during the reporting period. In addition, press reports indicate the government convicted seven offenders in 2013. For example, six Tanzanians – convicted on charges of transporting to and facilitating the forced begging of nine Tanzanian children in Mombasa – were reportedly sentenced to two years' imprisonment after pleading guilty to human smuggling in November 2013; two Kenyan offenders, also arrested for involvement in this case, were released on bail pending trial. In December 2013, the government also sentenced a mother to three years' imprisonment for neglect and benefitting from the prostitution of her 13-year-old daughter. The government did not provide information on the status of 15 child trafficking prosecutions that remained pending at the close of the previous reporting period. In addition, it did not report on its efforts to hold accountable traffickers – including recruitment agencies – responsible for facilitating the exploitation of Kenyans abroad.

Corruption among law enforcement authorities and other public officials continued to stymie efforts to bring traffickers to justice. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking, including immigration and revenue authority officials who allowed Tanzanian children – later victimized in forced begging – to enter Kenya without proper identification. In 2013, Kenyan border officials cooperated with Ugandan officials to intercept potential trafficking victims attempting to leave Uganda. In July 2013, Kenyan police assisted in a UK police investigation of allegations that a UK national had engaged in child sex tourism in the town of Gilgil. The government provided anti-trafficking training to 120 police officers as part of the Kenyan Police Service's criminal investigative training on transnational organized crime in four sessions during 2013. In April 2013, the Ministry of Youth trained a limited number of labor, police, and judicial officials on the application of anti-trafficking and labor laws. In addition, in November 2013, the DPP and a local NGO co-sponsored and co-financed a training for 50 prosecutors, investigators, and immigration officials on anti-trafficking law and to principals to guide trafficking prosecutions. The MFA also continued to provide anti-trafficking training to diplomats assigned abroad as part of their pre-departure orientation. The training provided during the year remained inadequate in light of Kenya's considerable human trafficking problem. In particular, inadequate training and human and financial resources continued to hamper the effectiveness of the police's anti-trafficking efforts.


The government's protection efforts appeared to weaken, though a lack of nationwide data impaired evaluation of such efforts. Based on limited information provided by the government, there were fewer child trafficking victims identified and assisted, and minimal efforts targeted towards adult victims. In the absence of guidelines for implementing the victim protection provisions of the 2010 anti-trafficking act, the government continued to use ad hoc mechanisms for identifying victims of trafficking among vulnerable populations and subsequent referral to care. Children's officers in four of Kenya's 47 counties provided counseling to 47 internal child trafficking victims – assisting some with reintegration into their home communities and referring others to the care of NGOs. Officials also provided counseling services and shelter to foreign victims; for example, children's officers in Mombasa partnered with the Tanzanian Embassy in Nairobi to assist in the repatriation of four Tanzanian children. Four additional Tanzanian child trafficking victims remained in an NGO shelter at the close of the reporting period. Neither DCS nor any other ministry received a specific budget allocation for protection activities. Nevertheless, DCS children's officers continued to participate in investigations, rescue child trafficking victims, and provide them with counseling and ad hoc referrals to service providers.

Despite a lack of funding, DCS and a local NGO continued to jointly operate a national 24-hour toll-free hotline for reporting cases of child trafficking, labor, and abuse. The hotline's main call center was located in a government-owned building in Nairobi and staffed, in part, by six children's officers who facilitated rescues and made referrals to appropriate district officials and health and legal aid organizations in other provinces. During the reporting period, the hotline received 25 reports of child trafficking and 276 reports of child labor – less than half of the numbers reported in each of these categories in the previous reporting period. DCS continued to operate four drop-in referral centers in Eldoret, Garissa, Malindi, and Mombasa that provided counseling, guidance, and referrals to other centers for an unknown number of victimized children, including trafficking victims, who could not return to their homes. Construction was completed on four additional referral centers in Siaya, Kakamega, Nairobi, and Nakuru, but they were not yet operational at the close of the reporting period. DCS also funded and operated rescue centers in Garissa, Malindi, Thika, and Machakos where child victims of violence, including trafficking victims, could stay for three months before returning home or being referred to NGO facilities; in 2013, the government completed construction on one additional rescue center in Kisumu, though it was not operational at the close of the reporting period. The government did not provide data on how many trafficking victims were assisted in these centers during the year.

While efforts to assist and care for child trafficking victims remained strong, the government provided relatively few, if any, services to trafficked adults identified within the country or abroad. Although new diplomats received anti-trafficking training from the Kenya Police Service and IOM before being posted overseas, most of Kenya's diplomatic missions failed to provide adequate assistance to Kenyan national trafficking victims. The Kenyan embassy in Riyadh assisted with the repatriation of 6,200 Kenyan migrant workers during 2013 and facilitated their repatriation by seeking exit visas and airline tickets from their employers, but lacked adequate shelter and assistance for the number of Kenyans who sought help. Kenyan media reported those waiting to be repatriated slept on the floor of the embassy or in a shipping container and were provided inadequate food. In 2013, the government concluded bilateral work agreements with the UAE and Saudi Arabia, which awaited signing at the close of the reporting period.

While the DPP reported that procedures are in place encouraging victims' cooperation in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking crimes, such procedures were not utilized during the year. There were no reports that victims were detained, fined, or jailed for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked; however, as the government did not make systematic efforts to identify victims among vulnerable populations and remained without a mechanism for screening individuals in prostitution, victims likely remained unidentified in the law enforcement system. Under the 2010 anti-trafficking law, officials 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 report using this provision during the year.


The government made minimal efforts to prevent human trafficking. During the majority of the reporting period, the government was without an operational anti-trafficking coordinating body. In March 2014, the government nominated members to its Counter-Trafficking in Persons Advisory Committee under the leadership of the Ministry of Labor, Social Security, and Services; at the end of the reporting period, the nominees awaited publication in the official gazette, a step required before the Advisory Committee could meet. The government did not establish the National Assistance Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking as mandated by the 2010 anti-trafficking act. The government continued partial implementation of the five-year national plan of action on human trafficking, including through the commissioning of a base-line study of trafficking in Kenya. During the year, children's officers in Mombasa engaged in a public campaign to raise trafficking awareness on the Day of the African Child in programs aimed at parents and teachers. Children's officers in Kilifi conducted public campaigns warning about the danger of child labor trafficking.

In November 2013, the MFA lifted a ban on labor recruitment agencies sending domestic workers to the Middle East, which was initially imposed in June 2012 with the stated goal of allowing for vetting of all such agencies. Intended to prevent Kenyans from experiencing abuse in the Middle East, the ban may have increased the vulnerabilities of Kenyan domestic workers abroad, as unscrupulous agencies illegally recruited Kenyan women and girls directly from villages, sending them to Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East through Tanzania or Uganda. During the reporting period, the Ministry of Labor (MOL) reported its inspection of 389 labor recruitment agencies of a total estimated 500 active agencies. The MFA conducted public outreach via media interviews to sensitize Kenyans to the issue of trafficking and to ensure recruitment agencies were aware of their obligations under Kenya's anti-trafficking law. Bribery of government officials by recruitment agencies reportedly hindered efforts to stop fraudulent recruitment. In 2013, the Ministry of Devolution and State Planning provided the equivalent of approximately $10,500 in funding for required pre-departure trainings – which included skills training and cultural lessons on the Middle East – for all workers approved to go overseas, reaching 1,215 migrant workers in twenty sessions over the year. During these sessions, officials encouraged departing workers to register with the Kenyan embassies in their destination countries.

The government investigated alleged crimes perpetrated by at least three suspected foreign child sex tourists in 2013. A Court in Mombasa sentenced a Belgian national to 20 years' imprisonment for defilement of a 13-year-old girl. Out-of-court settlements were much more common, with tourists paying girls' families to avoid legal action. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. The MOL employed 95 labor officers to cover all labor issues – an inadequate number for the size of Kenya's working population. The Kenyan government's training for troops prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions included a module on human rights that addressed human trafficking.


This 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.