The arrest, prosecution and deportation of two Tanzanian nationals has unmasked a ring which supplies the streets with foreign beggars and profits from the proceeds from the unsuspecting public.
On Monday evening, Emmanuel Masabuko – a disabled man – and his handler, Deus Peter, were brought before Bomet Senior Resident Magistrate Kipkirui Kibowen and charged with being in Kenya illegally.
On their own admission of guilt, the two were convicted and police and officials of the Immigration Department were ordered to immediately deport them to their country of origin.
It also emerged that the two did not have any identification documents on them by the time they were arrested last Friday evening at the Bomet market.
The arrest of the two and the subsequent deportation orders unmasked a cartel of Tanzanian nationals using their physically challenged relatives and friends to solicit money on Kenyan streets.
The trend of foreign beggars on Kenyan streets seems to be gaining currency in the country.
Officers had established that the two were not Kenyans but foreigners on a begging mission, with the disabled man being used as a sympathy bait to lure people to give out money in what is a wider scheme to “rob the innocent of their money without firing a shot”.
“Before pouncing on them, security officers who were on the case had established that they were not Kenyans and, apart from not having identification documents with them, they also had no permit to enter the country,” said State Prosecutor Patriciah Kariuki.
Defence lawyer Moses Leteipa confirmed that his clients had no documentations and that they had been misled into entering the country in the belief that there was a free movement of residents within the East Africa Community.
“I pray to this court to be lenient on the accused persons who are remorseful for being in the country illegally. They undertake return to their country of origin and are amenable to deportation orders should the court deem [it] fit,” said Mr Leteipa.
Mr Leteipa further said, “They have not been in contact with Tanzanian authorities or any of their nationals within Kenya. As such, they cannot raise any fine if they are slapped with [the same.”
The court directed that the two be deported to Tanzanian as soon as is practically possible and the order be implemented by the Bomet Police Station OCS who, in effecting the orders, should liaise with the Immigration Department.
“The two had been conducting their trade for the last one year at the same spot before they were unmasked by curious members of the public who realised that Masabuko could not speak any of the local languages,” said Mr Godwin Kipngetich Rotich, a guard at the market.
Mr Rotich said he witnessed the disabled man being brought every morning to his favourite corner and taken away in the evening by his caretaker.
“He is not the only foreign beggar in the streets. Several others have been arrested and prosecuted in similar operations but other new faces keep popping up at the same corner,” said Mr Rotich.
An officer involved in the operation to rid the region of foreigners said the porous borders between Kenya and Tanzania provide entry points for the undocumented foreigners.
“Whenever they are deported, they always sneak back into the country as soon as they can and relocate to other towns away from the ones they were arrested in,” said an officer who cannot be quoted for this story due to his rank.
The detective says there is a cartel that runs the begging ring that mints thousands of shillings on a monthly basis and which supplies the streets with disabled people for the “business”.
He said that police officers are investigating the matter with a view to nabbing the ring leaders involved.
And in a brief chart with the Nation after being sentenced, Peter revealed that the money collected ends with the people who have retained him to take charge of Masabuko.
“I only get a retainer fee at the end of the month, but the money goes to my boss whom we make remittance to on a weekly basis. The house we reside in is also paid for,” said Peter, who claimed to hail from Tanga in Tanzania.
He revealed that they are smuggled into the country through the Isebania border and some porous areas through Serengeti and Mara game reserves and driven to various towns where they are assigned strategic areas to collect money from the public.
“Some use public means and come through all the check points with valid documents but once they are in Kenya, the identification documents are confiscated to ensure they do not leave the country and are at the mercy of the “employer”,” Peter stated before being taken off by police officers to be processed for deportation.
Masabuko could not communicate well as he did not understand Kiswahili well and stammered due to his physical challenges.
In the last one year, more than seven foreigners have been arrested and deported in similar circumstances following an operation to rid the streets in the South Rift region of beggars.