22 August 2012

Kenya: Illegal Chinese Hawkers Should Be Arrested - Wetangula

Photo: Ofeibea Quist-Arcton
Maasai Market, Nairobi (file photo): Local traders have petitioned the government to bar Chinese traders from running small businesses.

Chinese citizens engaging in hawking business in Kenya without valid work permits and documents should be arrested, prosecuted and deported, trade minister Moses Wetangula has declared. This also applies to Somalis and Asians operating without proper documents, the minister told Parliament yesterday.

He however cautioned leaders against inciting the public against foreigners to avoid reprisal actions against Kenyans working in other countries. Wetangula said that while his ministry has no joint vetting procedures with the immigration counterparts to easily isolate illegal immigrants from genuine traders, there is proof that some foreigners are breaking the law by engaging in activities other than those which they declared as reasons for entry into the country.

"I know there are Kenyan hawkers in China and most of the countries in the region are dominated by Kenyan small scale traders" Wetangula said.

"It is therefore not right to shield ourselves from nationals from other countries working in Kenya because we have to live within a civilized world where we must welcome others as we send our own to work in other places." Wetangula was issuing a ministerial statement requested following last weeks' street protests by local traders against Chinese hawkers in Nairobi.

The local traders claim the Chinese hawkers were driving them out of business with cheap, substandard and subsidised goods. They have petitioned the government to bar them from operating in the small scale business sector arguing that they should be restricted to large scale projects which require highly skilled labour.

The traders claimed the Chinese embassy had been either delaying or denying them visas for travel to China where they source their wares from while encouraging the Chinese traders to import the same wares into Kenya at cheap rates. Wetangula tabled a list of 11 Chinese private companies that have been registered to trade in Kenya, exclude the ones in infrastructure construction which are linked to the government of China.

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