Foreigners deported as probe lifts lid on rot in work permit issuance

Wednesday March 18 2020

A police officer interrogates five Egyptians who were arrested last week for operating businesses without permit in Homa Bay town. Homa Bay County Police Commander Marius Tum (left) monitors the interrogation. PHOTO | BARACK ODUOR | NATION MEDIA GROUP


More than 1,000 foreigners have been kicked out of the country in the past two weeks, in one of the boldest crackdowns aimed at streamlining the corruption-prone process of issuing work permits in the country.

Documents seen by the Nation show that more illegal foreign workers will be deported over the next three months after an investigation exposed the dirty tricks they used to gain entry into the country. They claimed to have found work even though they did not possess not only genuine job papers but also qualifications.

Findings of a three-month audit exercise that has embarrassed some senior immigration officials who pocket huge sums of money to dish out work permits to undeserving cases is currently on the table of Interior and Coordination of National Government Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i who has promised to crack the whip on civil servants who abetted the vice.


Already, 30 civil servants have been shown the door after they were implicated in the sleaze which is said to have allowed some dangerous criminals to hide in the country. Also deported include more than 60 managers of high-end hotels, businessmen and experts sneaked into the country in questionable circumstances.

So astonishing are the findings on the “business” of issuing work permits that Dr Matiang’i announced a new move in which foreigners seeking to come to work in Kenya have to apply for permits while in their home countries before they obtain visas to travel.


Currently, many of the foreigners arrive in Kenya with various visas only to buy work permits locally through cartels based at Nyayo House, Nairobi.

Corruption in the work permits’ business has also compelled the country to compile an electronic register of all foreigners licensed to work in Kenya.

A hard copy of the 173-page register has also been dispatched to all police stations in the country to ease the process of identifying foreigners allowed to work in the country.


Dr Matiang'i who, in May, this year announced a three-month moratorium to the process of issuing work permits to allow for a verification exercise, has thrown his weight behind the deportations.

“We must streamline this process (of issuing work permits) or we risk hosting people whose activities in the country remain mysterious,” he said when he released results of the verification process last month.

He added: “Some of the revelations from our audit has so far been baffling.”

Although the government is open to allowing genuine foreign experts to work in Kenya, like would be the case for its citizens in other countries, reports suggest the aliens so far kicked out gained their work permits through corruption. Others were living and working locally without the required papers.

Perhaps keen not to hurt diplomatic relations with affected countries, Dr Matiang'i said last week that the country was only involved in a meticulous clean up to ensure only genuine internationals worked locally.


But a look at the documents reveals that some of the foreigners sneaked into the country as tourists when, indeed, they were using the country to hide from Interpol.

Others were fugitives who were avoiding dragnets back home over various crimes such as terrorism, murder and theft.

The search and tracing process of the “criminals” was led by a multi-sectoral team that includes the Interior Ministry, police and the Immigration services.

The probe’s findings show that 190 of the illegal immigrants were traced to the counties with Nairobi, Kajiado (mainly Kitengela, Kiserian and Rongai areas) and Nakuru, holding the highest number of the illegal immigrants.

The figures show that most of the illegal immigrants were keen to stay in cosmopolitan areas, where they can easily go unnoticed because of the heterogeneity of the people.

Ground work for the crackdown was touched off by a three-month permit verification exercise that Dr Matiang’i started on May 21, 2018. It ended on July 21, 2018.


The exercise was meant to screen a total of 33,022 permits that had been issued between July 2016 and June 2018.

However, at the end of the exercise, 26,829 permits were verified. It means 6,193 permits could not be traced.

“It is important to note that the cate held in the systems are highly dynamic as some permits expire while others are issued,” the final report of the Permit Verification Exercise report says.

Following the stunning revelations that a number of foreigners used corrupt ways to gain entry into Kenya, the Government has asked foreigners without proper work permits to leave the country or face arrest.

Leading nationalities in the cases include Nigerians, Congolese, South Sudanese, Tanzanians and Ethiopians.


On Thursday, 27 Tanzanians were arrested in Mombasa as part of the nationwide crackdown on illegal immigrants.

They were handed over to the Immigration Department for facilitation ahead of their expected deportation.

Mombasa Police Commander Johnston Ipara said the Tanzanians were among other immigrants from Congo, Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia who were arrested for lacking travel documents.

However, East Africans can use their national IDs to get in and out of Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda meaning some of those who can produce the documents can have their cases reviewed.

Last week, nineteen Nigerians were arrested and later deported for engaging in electronic fraud.

The suspects were arrested in Umoja, Kasarani and Roysambu estates within Nairobi for engaging in electronic fraud targeting Kenyans.


Dr Matiang’i announced last week that all those who failed the vetting test will be flashed out in an exercise that will continue for the next three months.

He said that 60 senior hotel managers had already been deported after it emerged that they had come into the country as tourists.

Some of those so far deported were engaging in jobs that can be done by Kenyans and the CS said that he had suspended application for foreigners’ work permits on arrival in Kenya.

“If you have a job, or you have applied for a job to come to Kenya and work in a regional branch of an international company, you apply for a work permit from where you are,” said Dr Matiang’i.

Only those whose applications for foreign workers permits’ have been processed will be allowed to come into the country for work.