The government demonstrated uneven protection efforts as it improved identification of and institutional protections for children domestically and adults abroad; however, such services for adult victims in-country remained negligible. Authorities reported identifying and referring to care at least 352 trafficking victims in 2017, of which the vast majority—267—were subjected to forced labor, seven to sexual exploitation, and the remainder unknown; this was compared with its identification and protection of 530 victims in 2016, although many were likely involved in smuggling. During the reporting period, the government provided 60 million Kenyan shillings ($581,400) from the federal budget for anti-trafficking efforts, including implementation of the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) and the victim assistance fund, which is a marked increase from no funds provided during the previous period. By the end of 2017, the government fully implemented the NRM and trained relevant stakeholders on its identification and referral provisions. According to multiple government and civil society stakeholders, identification of child trafficking victims remained stronger than for adults. Identification sources included direct referrals to NGOs from victims or witnesses; reactively by police during investigations; or calls to the government-operated, gender-based violence or NGO-run hotlines. The two national hotlines were operational 24 hours per day, year round; however, unlike the previous two years, the government did not report how many calls either line received during the reporting period. Victim care varied in quality and services consisted of medical care, psycho-social counseling, rehabilitation and reintegration support, food and clothing supply, legal aid, and transportation. The government and NGOs across Kenya jointly provided these protective provisions, although sometimes NGOs acted alone when the government was too slow or neglected to respond. The government placed some child victims in child-specific rescue centers, supported the familial reunification of others, and assisted with the repatriation of non-Kenyan nationals. It operated drop-in referral centers in Mombasa (Likoni), Malindi, Nyeri, Machakos, Meru, Kakamega, Kisumu, Nyamira, Nakuru, Eldoret, Kericho, and Muranga, and four rescue centers in Garissa, Nairobi, Thika, and Machakos, where child victims of violence, including trafficking victims, could stay for up to three months before returning home or being referred to NGO facilities.
To continue addressing the exploitation of Kenyan nationals in Arabian Gulf States, in addition to the Ministry of Labor (MOL)-assigned labor attaches already working in Kenyan missions in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, attaches began working in the UAE during the reporting period to assist citizens employed there. The government also concluded bilateral labor agreements with Saudi Arabia and Qatar to coordinate efforts to reduce cases of exploitative labor and other abuses against Kenyans abroad, to include trafficking; it was under negotiations for such agreements with the UAE and Kuwait at the close of the reporting period. It provided ad hoc monetary and logistical assistance for repatriation of its citizens subjected to trafficking outside Kenya. In some cases, NGOs and destination-country governments coordinated and funded the repatriation of Kenyan nationals without government support. Officials assisted more than 70 Kenyans with their return in 2017, mostly due to poor labor conditions, and an NGO and an international organization reported repatriating 46 Kenyan nationals from Gulf States.
Some officials continued to conflate smuggling with trafficking and arrested, without screening, potential trafficking victims for contravening immigration laws. Reports also alleged authorities treated some victims as criminals, particularly women in prostitution, sometimes charging them with labor violations. The government had formal procedures to encourage victims’ cooperation in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking crimes, and during the reporting period seven victims utilized the government’s victim-witness protection program. Under the anti-trafficking act, 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 reporting period.