Trafficking cartels are minting millions of shillings from desperate Kenyans looking for work in foreign capitals especially in the Gulf countries.
With promises of well-paying jobs in security, hospitality or domestic work, the hopes of many are being dashed when they find themselves in bonded servitude, sexual slavery or even worse.
Just what is the cost of trafficking? The executive director of Trace Kenya, a Mombasa-based NGO fighting human trafficking, Paul Adhoch, says on average, smuggling men is cheaper than women.
For example, a man may end up paying Sh300,000 (US$3,000) to be smuggled from Kenya to Europe through, or to, the Middle East. Women, particularly those from Ethiopia, Eritrea or Somalia are on average are charged at least Sh600,000 (US$6,000) to be smuggled to Europe and other Western countries.
To pay off the smugglers, the women are forced to work in brothels in the transit countries to earn money to get to their destination.
“The women pay more because the process of taking them to the final destination may take years. This means that they have to pay for their upkeep. Some of them travel with fake passports as girlfriends or brides of the smugglers and they work as prostitutes to pay the traffickers. They are usually passed on from one smuggler to the other and sexually exploited,” said Adhoch.
Those seeking a better life in Europe — especially those from Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea — are smuggled into Kenya through to Sudan and Egypt. Others transit through Kenya before being smuggled to South Africa through Tanzania and Mozambique.
According to Awareness Against Human Trafficking (Haart-Kenya), Eritreans, Ethiopians and South Sudanese use Kenya as a transit to Tanzania and further to South Africa while those smuggled from Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Eastern Congo end up in the Gulf States.