A new study into human trafficking trends in East Africa reveals that the capitals of Kenya and Tanzania are the region's main magnet for children and adults tricked into exploitative labour including prostitution.
The research found that - although people initially may have travelled across East African borders voluntarily in search of greener pastures - they were invariably deceived by a range of actors including family, religious acquaintances, business men and retired prostitutes, into working in exploitative situations.
The new research, done by the International Organisation of Migration (IOM), concluded that the main cities in Kenya and Tanzania are the main recipients of trafficked adults and children in East Africa. The main countries of origin are Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and Congo Kinshasa (DRC).
In Kenya, the study found evidence of Rwandan, Tanzanian and Ugandan victims of trafficking, including children, working in Nairobi as domestic labourers, in the commercial sex and hospitality sectors, and in the agricultural sector in various locations around the country.
Victims were identified in the Kenyan-Ugandan border town of Busia, while Tanzanian children were found working as cattle herders and in motorbike repair shops in Oloitoktok on the Kenyan-Tanzanian border, as well as begging on the streets of Nairobi and Naivasha.
In Tanzania, the IOM researchers found evidence of child trafficking from Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda for sexual exploitation, fishing, domestic servitude and agricultural labour.
Adult victims of trafficking into Tanzania were mainly identified in the domestic sector, as well as the mining, agricultural and hospitality industries.
But while Ugandan children are trafficked to all the countries in the region, Uganda was also registered as a destination for trafficked victims from Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda. In addition, instability in eastern Congo was found to be fuelling the influx of trafficked children to Uganda.
Although information on Rwanda was scant, the country was identified as a source for victims destined for Italy, Norway and the Netherlands as well as for child victims destined for Nairobi and the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa as domestic workers and for sexual exploitation.
"The lack of referral mechanisms providing protection and support, especially for adult victims, is a major weakness in the counter-trafficking response in the region," the IOM researchers warned.
Indeed, Rwanda is the only country in the region where authorities have established shelter and hotline services to assist victims of gender violence, including victims of trafficking. However the lack of appropriate referral mechanisms across its border was hampering efforts to expedite the return and rehabilitation of cross-border victims, according to IOM.
The results of the study were presented at a Nairobi workshop to senior East African government officials, civil society groups and international experts. Participants called for the implementation of a region-wide 116 emergency number - an internationally recognised hotline number for trafficked children, which is currently in use in Kenya.