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Kenya: Court frees 20 Ugandan girls intercepted in JKIA human trafficking swoop

The 20 girls, some with fake passports, were reportedly headed for the Middle East before they were intercepted

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KENYA – Twenty Ugandan girls have pleaded guilty of entering Kenya illegally before a court in Nairobi, but will not be punished, The Star newspaper reported.

The girls were headed for Oman in the Middle East and their arrest at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Monday before departure led to suspicion of human trafficking, with Kenyan authorities subsequently opening investigations.

“They were nabbed after the Immigration Department’s Forgery Detection Unit established that security endorsements on their passports were forged,” The Star reported.

According to the newspaper, Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi declined to sentence the suspects as the prosecution did not present enough evidence to prove the charges.

On Wednesday, the prosecution told the court that the passports indicated the girls entered the country through Busia, Malaba and Lwakhakha border posts.

But after verification, FDU established that the stamps were fake, did not originate from the respective offices and that there are no records to show the women gained entry through the border posts.

Andayi convicted the 20 aliens on their own plea of guilty and pardoned them. He ordered the Starehe OCPD to facilitate their travel to Ugandan Mission’s offices.

“Their physical stature shows they are young and the fact that they can’t speak in English means they are not well educated. I, therefore, discharge them without punishment,” Andayi is quoted by The Star as saying.

The girls’ passports were retained by the Department of Immigration.

The suspects’ lawyer David Ayuo said the Ugandan High commission in Nairobi had requested to have them handed over to them for joint interrogation with ATPU to assist rescue others who could be on the verge of being sold to slavery, the newspaper said.

“Uganda High Commission requests the esteemed court for leniency to be granted to the girls and release them to the mission with their passports to facilitate their return to Uganda,” Ayuo, who represented the suspects and the Ugandan mission, reportedly told the court.

With soaring joblessness in Uganda, many youth often seek a way out in the Middle East to do odd jobs. However, reports of enslavement of those who have been ‘lucky enough’ to go to Middle East are rife, with allegations that many often have their passports confiscated to check those who might want to run away.

But the bad tales that abound have not stopped many more from paying heavily to board that flight to Middle East, with recruitment firms partaking in the activity to engage and send Ugandans out there.

Agencies/The Star-Kenya

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