Human trafficking seems far off from our personal experiences or reality, doesn't it? Most of us perceive it as something that happens to others, but perhaps not to us, or people we know. The truth is, it is happening around us, more often than we know and to people we may be familiar or acquainted with.
In 2021, a local TV news investigation exposed a human trafficking ring operating between Nairobi and Kampala, Uganda. It was reported that there were about 3,000 Ugandan girls in Nairobi. In 2020, the International Organization of Migration (IOM) repatriated 12 Kenyan women who had been trafficked to India.
Human trafficking is often referred to as a crime "hidden in plain sight".
Some of the indicators to look out for on human trafficking include; your relative who left for a job via an employment agency to a foreign country called out for help and is now unreachable. That underage house girl next door who comes from a neighbouring country, barely speaks our national language but carries a Kenyan ID with someone else's name.
The documentaries airing around us about newborn babies disappearing and cartels selling babies to foreigners looking to adopt. The rising number of beggars on our roads each morning and evening being wheeled around, domestic servitude where there's no payment or remuneration of any kind, and sex trafficking within different parts of this country.
According to the United Nations, human trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of people through force, fraud or deception, with the aim of exploiting them for profit.
We must close the gap in public awareness to sensitize our citizens. The question "Am I supporting human trafficking?" must be asked. We must disrupt the cycle of supporting any form of trafficking.
This could be by refusing to employ the domestic worker we really liked from a bureau who has false documentation, or reporting fraudulent job recruiters who withhold identity documents or impose debts such as travel costs.
It could also be by adhering to the legal requirements for the adoption of a child and refusing bribes, or simply sharing the post of a lost child or adult. Some of the girls providing entertainment in bars have been enticed and coerced into performing in nightclubs.
Regardless of whether they voluntarily provided these services, they are deemed as victims of human trafficking if they are under the age of 18. It will make a significant difference if our conscience would drive us to speak out against any form of trafficking.
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) which is the Global anti-money laundering and countering financing of terrorism watchdog, has designated human trafficking as an offence.
The movement of funds generated by human trafficking can constitute money laundering or financing of terrorism where terrorist organisations benefit. It is possible that you may have come across a victim of human trafficking. We must speak openly about this crime, what it is, who it benefits, who it harms, the laws surrounding it, and our role as citizens.
Kenya is signatory to the Palermo Protocol, which led to the domestication of the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2010, which came into effect in 2012. In 2021, the US Department of State however rated Kenya as Tier 2 for human trafficking, which indicates that it does not fully satisfy the minimal standards for eradicating trafficking but is making considerable efforts to do so.
An example of the efforts by the Kenyan government, is a recent landmark ruling was issued by a Resident Magistrate in Kenya's Shanzu Law Court on November 26, 2021, finding a prominent businessman with Canadian and British passports guilty of smuggling 12 Nepalese women and girls into Kenya and sentencing him to sixty years in jail.
According to the latest report by the International Labour Organization (ILO), an estimated 40.3 million people were in modern slavery, including 24.9 million in forced labour and 15.4 million in forced marriage. The Trafficking in Persons Report 2021 published by the US State Department reported that the Kenyan government had identified 383 victims of trafficking.
Typically, traffickers exploit the victims' financial vulnerabilities, subjecting them to sexual exploitation, begging, forced labor or even organ trafficking to obtain money for their own profit.
The ILO estimates that human trafficking generates $150 billion in global profits annually for traffickers, with $99 billion coming from commercial sexual exploitation. Kenyatta National Hospital recently tweeted that their most commonly received question is "how much for my kidney?"
This implies that people are exploring prospects for selling human organs; this is illegal in Kenya and many other countries and, if given the opportunity, might serve as a catalyst for organ trafficking.
The 30th of July every year is designated as the World Day Against Human Trafficking. This year’s theme is “Use and abuse of technology” and focuses on the role of technology as a tool that can both enable and impede human trafficking (United Nations).
Social media sites and apps are often used for recruiting purposes and communication with potential victims. The use of technology facilitates victim tracking and expedites payments. However, with the use of technology, law enforcement agencies are able to track the victims as well as apprehend the criminals.
Financial institutions also play a critical role in deploying technology that helps in identifying and flagging activity that may be consistent with human trafficking. This is done in addition to carrying out continuous customer due diligence on their clients.
We must realize that just like drug trade, illicit arms trade, corruption and fraud, profit is the driving motive for human trafficking.
As long as law enforcement officers including police, customs and immigration are complicit, human trafficking will thrive. In the words of Noy Thruplaew “Our prosperity is no longer prosperity as long as it’s pinned to other people’s pain”.
Faith Muthaura is the Financial Crime Control Director at Flywheel Advisory.