Diverse Human Trafficking Trends in East African Region Highlights Urgent Need for Greater Protection
An IOM cross-border assessment of human trafficking in Kenya and
its neighbouring countries has revealed highly diverse trends
affecting people of all ages and both genders, and highlighting a
much greater need for protection of victims.
The assessment, presented last week at an IOM regional workshop
in Kenya focusing on cross-border trafficking in the East African
region, found that although people initially may have travelled
across borders voluntarily in search of greener pastures, they were
invariably deceived by a range of actors including family,
religious acquaintances, business men and retired prostitutes, into
working in exploitative situations.
In Kenya, the assessment found evidence of Rwandan, Tanzanian
and Ugandan victims of trafficking, including children, working in
the capital, Nairobi, as domestic labourers, in the commercial sex
and hospitality sectors, and in the agricultural sector in various
locations around the country. Victims were identified in the
Kenyan-Ugandan border town of Busia, while Tanzanian children were
found working as cattle herders and in motorbike repair shops in
Oloitoktok on the Kenyan-Tanzanian border, as well as begging on
the streets of Nairobi and Naivasha.
In Tanzania, IOM found evidence of child trafficking from
Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda for sexual exploitation, fishing,
domestic servitude and agricultural labour.
Adult victims were identified in the domestic sector, as well as
the mining, agricultural and hospitality industries.
The IOM assessment established that Ugandan children are
trafficked to all the countries in the region with Uganda also a
destination for trafficked victims from Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda.
In addition, instability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
(DRC) was found to be fuelling the influx of trafficked children to
Uganda. Victims are usually transported by road using buses,
lorries and trucks. Adult victims originate from DRC, Kenya and
Rwanda in the domestic, agriculture, fishing and sex
Although information on Rwanda was scant, the country was
identified as a source for victims destined for Italy, Norway and
the Netherlands as well as for child victims destined for Nairobi
and the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa as domestic workers and for
The lack of referral mechanisms providing protection and
support, especially for adult victims, is a major weakness in the
counter-trafficking response in the region.
Rwanda is the only country in the region where the government,
through the Police and the Ministry of Gender, has established
shelter and hotline services to assist victims of gender violence
including victims of trafficking. However, the lack of appropriate
referral mechanisms across its border hampers efforts to expedite
the return and rehabilitation of cross-border victims.
The findings of the assessment used by 50 senior East African
government officials, civil society partners and international
experts at the IOM-organized workshop, led to the decision to
create an IOM-facilitated regional network of partners as a first
step to creating a functioning referral mechanism.
Participants also called for the implementation of a region-wide
116 emergency number – an internationally recognized hotline
number for trafficked children which is currently in use in Kenya.
Other recommendations included: the establishment of a centralized
regional database on human trafficking to include information on
traffickers that can be shared with law enforcement agencies in the
region; greater research to determine the scale of the problem in
the region; the harmonization of anti-trafficking laws in East
Africa and the development of common procedures and standards on
countering human trafficking.
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