Kenya: Work Permit Swoop Worthy

A group of tourists take photos at the iconic Tusks along Moi Avenue in Mombasa's CBD.
4 September 2018

A two-week crackdown that has led to the expulsion of nearly 1,000 foreigners who have been working in the country illegally is a laudable breakthrough.

Indeed, the operation has lifted the lid off a not-so-well-kept secret: The endemic corruption in the issuance of work permits.

As some wayward officials in the Immigration Department have been lining their pockets, their compatriots have been denied jobs that they deserve.

The effort to streamline the recruitment of expatriates is not driven by xenophobia, as happens in some other countries.


In fact, Kenya has, over the years, been very welcoming to foreigners and is among the countries hosting the largest number of refugees.

The only problem is the few crooked officials, who manipulate the system for illicit gain.

Interior Cabinet Minister Fred Matiang'i has made it quite clear that the aim of the crackdown is to ensure that only genuine foreigners seeking to work in Kenya get work permits. And the principle is that those recruited should possess skills that are not available locally.

From now on, foreigners will apply for work permits in their countries and only come over after being cleared.


It is instructive that the swoop has been extended to net the government officials abetting the scam. Some 30 officials have already been sacked over the clearance of foreigners who pose a security threat to national security.

One loophole that needs to be sealed is the use of tourist or other visas by criminals fleeing justice in their countries, who then go into hiding in Kenya. There have also been cases of terrorists coming in under camouflage.

The work permit criminal rings must be broken and the culprits seized and punished. With the threat of terrorism hovering over the country and the region, Immigration officials must strictly and meticulous carry out their assignments to help secure the country.

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