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24-HOUR RULE

Rigid laws a hurdle to human trafficking investigations – DCI

In Summary

• Investigations are extensive and lengthy and require more time to connect the dots

• Law states victims cannot be held in cells but Kenya has no safe houses

Crime scene
GOING AFTER CROOKS: Crime scene
Image: /THE STAR

Rigid laws that limit the custodial period to 24 hours are an impediment to human smuggling and trafficking investigations. 

Director of investigations bureau John Kariuki said human trafficking and smuggling require extensive investigations, which means involving Interpol and authorities in different countries.

The law states a person must be charged within 24 hours of arrest. 

Kariuki said thorough investigations cannot be done within 24 hours as they require connecting the dots in the human trafficking and smuggling chain to identify those involved and their roles.

More than 20,000 people are trafficked through Kenya annually from neighbouring countries, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Most are smuggled from Ethiopia and Somalia and pay to be moved to other countries, usually South Africa. Others are from Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan heading to the Middle East after being duped with job promises.

The DCI has rescued numerous Asian women smuggled into Kenya. Most are lured with the promise they will work as cultural dancers only to end up in nightclubs.

In July last year, detectives raided two nightclubs in Westlands and arrested 21 Pakistani girls who were working without permits.

In December last year, eight Pakistani women were arrested in a nightclub at Diamond Plaza, Westlands.

They came into the country as cultural dancers but intelligence indicated they were involved in other activities at the club. They were deported on orders of Interior CS Fred Matiangi.

Nine girls from Nepal were rescued from a nightclub in Parklands. They were repatriated after testifying in a case where proprietors of the club were charged with human trafficking.  

Kariuki said the Directorate of Criminal Investigations prefers to hand such people to the Department of Immigration to be charged with being in Kenya unlawfully. He said investigations into the chain of movement are lengthy.

“The law also says [victims] cannot be held in cells and even if we were to be allowed to hold them for more time, you cannot investigate 30 people when the OCS is not able to feed them because of the big numbers,” he said.

“When the law set these terms, it did not consider that there are no safe houses. If we find an NGO willing to house them, they have a capacity [to hold] very few and they don't accommodate male victims.”

On Wednesday detectives from the Transnational Organised Crime Unit raided a home in Kiambu and rescued nine Ethiopian men aged between 20 and 36 suspected to be victims of human trafficking.

On March 27, TOCU detectives raided a house in Kiambu and rescued 25 Burundian women believed to be human trafficking victims. Three women suspected of smuggling them were arrested.

Kariuki said most victims don't have any travel documents and most present a language barrier challenge.

“With all these challenges, we choose to have them repatriated. But that is not solving the problem because as we arrest, possibly there are others who escape our dragnet and successfully transition to the destinations,” he said.

Edited by Josephine M. Mayuya