The crisis of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) is not a new phenomenon in Kenya. In the period directly after the country experienced post-election violence in 2007, the magnitude of displaced people has risen. As a result of the ethnic-spirited violence in various parts of the country, the number of IDPs has reached an all-time high of up to 309,200 displaced Kenyans according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). Human Rights activist organizations and the international community as a whole have been alarmed with the vulnerability displaced persons have to the scourge of Human Trafficking.

Victims of internal displacement face a myriad of challenges, often of ethnic and economic dimensions, as they are shunned by the host communities and easily become an impoverished minority. Having lost their property and wealth by virtue of displacement and as a direct consequence of the social exclusion they experience upon relocation, these people become easy prey for traffickers. Thousands of reports of trafficking incidents relating to IDP persons and settlements have been recorded, prompting an inquiry into the extent and nature of this particular problem.

Awareness Against Human Trafficking (HAART) has conducted a research-oriented investigation in this regard and what emerged as the most important question was whether all IDPs are equally vulnerable to trafficking. We recognize that although it is widely thought that IDPs are vulnerable to trafficking, what constitutes the motives for “being-a-population” at risk of being trafficked is still primarily based on assumption.

As IDPs are scattered throughout the country the research has therefore tried to encompass all the regions where they can be found. A total of 12 clusters were formulated which covered the four broad types of IDPs. There were also a select number of key informants who were chosen to give input towards the research. The total number of individuals interviewed came to about 300 people.

The research has faced multiple challenges in the field from extreme weather to language barriers. One of the most memorable has been the resistance incurred while trying to get the evasive government specialists to take part in the research. They insinuated that the issues of human trafficking were nothing but a myth in the country and they haven’t come across such.

The research has been eye-opening, shedding light on the current state and the challenges experienced by the IDPs. Forming a larger bulk of the most impoverished in Kenya it was no wonder that they became easier targets to traffickers and other exploiters alike. Many posed too eager to recover lost wealth by being willing to do anything.  It was also evident that a larger percentage of the group were ignorant to the existence of human trafficking and therefore engaged in its vices without knowing.

The final document in this light will therefore attempt to shed light on the depth of the correlation between trafficking and IDPs. The overall intention is that the research findings should help in delivering better protection service to IDPs in Kenya and in other Eastern African countries where IDPs may have a similar status.

You can read the full research here.

By Shirley Nakhumicha Otube