Kenya is striving to end human trafficking, but government action remains inadequate in several respects, the US State Department has said.
In its annual Trafficking in Persons report, the US has assigned Kenya the 'Tier 2' category for a third consecutive year.
The ranking means the country has fallen short of American standards but has been found to be making “significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.”
The government made strides to combat trafficking last year by launching a national referral mechanism and by issuing new registration requirements and a code of conduct for private labour-recruitment agencies.
Information on the country's anti-trafficking laws has also been added to the basic police training curricula, the report noted.
In addition, the Ministry of Labour has assigned labour attachés to Kenyan missions in Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia with the aim of protecting citizens working in those countries, the State Department added.
Kenyans willingly migrating to other countries in search of employment are sometimes exploited in domestic servitude and in massage parlours and brothels.
The government, however, was found to be falling short of minimal standards in several key areas.
For instance, it did not allocate funding to a victim assistance fund last year despite providing Sh7 million in 2015, the report said.
Corruption has also hampered the fight against trafficking, with some government officials suspected of being complicit in the vice.
The US has recommended utilising formal procedures to encourage victims to cooperate in investigations and help prosecute perpetrators of the crimes.
“Kenyan authorities continued to treat some victims as criminals, and the availability of protective services for adult victims remained negligible,” the report says.
“Corruption in sectors of the government perpetuated traffickers’ ability to obtain fraudulent identity documents from complicit officials,” it adds.
Boys were increasingly subjected to trafficking last year, with family members sometimes facilitating such exploitation of children.
Along with girls, they are “exploited in commercial sex throughout Kenya, including in sex tourism in Nairobi, Kisumu and on the Coast, particularly in informal settlements.”
Children are also exploited by workers in miraa cultivation areas, near gold mines in western Kenya and by fishermen on Lake Victoria, according to the State Department.
“Some children in Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps may be subjected to sex trafficking, while others are taken from the camps and forced to work on tobacco farms,” the report states.