Kenya: Echesa Did Not Issue Work Permits to Pakistani Women - Sports Ministry

Sports, Heritage and Culture Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa.
7 January 2019

The Ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage has denied any involvement in the issuance of work permits to eight Pakistanis that has thrust CS Rashid Echesa in the spotlight over claims of human trafficking.

The ministry declared that the only role the CS played in the saga was to support the Pakistanis' application for special passes to participate in an Indian cultural festival through the issuance of a letter of no objection as part of his ministry's mandate in promoting cultural integration.

CULTURAL DANCERS

In a statement, the ministry denied Mr Echesa was involved in the issuance of work permits to the eight Pakistanis as alleged or any involvement or association of human trafficking.

"The issuance of a letter of no objection was informed by a long standing bilateral agreement for cultural exchange between the Government of Kenya and the Government of Pakistan for cooperation and exchange in areas of art, culture and music," the ministry said in a statement signed by the director of administration, Mr Charles Wambia.

The ministry was responding to a story published in the Saturday Nation in which a magistrate ordered that the eight, allegedly flown into the country as cultural dancers, be kept in a safe house to enable police to establish whether they were victims of human trafficking.

Senior Principal Magistrate Kennedy Cheruiyot of Milimani Law Courts, Nairobi, gave the order after being furnished with special permits issued to the eight foreign women by Mr Echesa.

However, the eight, alongside one Indian dancer, were on Saturday evening deported for violating terms of their temporary passes that allowed them into Kenya, allegedly to promote transnational culture.

MIGRATION RULES

The women, all aged above 18 and suspected to have been victims of human trafficking, were arrested at a club in Parklands, and arraigned for being in the country illegally.

A statement from the Interior ministry on Saturday evening said the women had been deported for violating citizenship and migration regulations, by engaging in activities outside of what was specified in their entry documents.

"Some have already left and last batch will leave at midnight. Investigations are still going on to establish the circumstances in which the women came into Kenya ostensibly to promote transnational culture but ended up in suspicious places," Interior spokeswoman Wangui Muchiri said.

On Sunday, Mr Wambia insisted the ministry is not responsible for issuance of visas to foreign nationals entering the country neither does it issue them with work permits or engage in assessing the reasons for entry or activities undertaken whilst in the country whether compliant or otherwise.

"It is the prerogative of the Department of Immigration to consider any such applications on their own merit after conducting due diligence and if they meet legal requirements," Mr Wambia said.

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