08/27/2022, 12.14
MYANMAR - KENYA
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Kenyan victims for Myanmar's human trafficking and sex slavery markets

Mostly unmarried women under 30. Lured with the prospect of employment, they end up in prostitution. Exploitation also affects other nations in the area, from Thailand to Vietnam. A business volume of millions for unscrupulous traffickers. 

Yangon (AsiaNews) - A market trafficking human lives links Kenya to Myanmar. And involving, in large majority, unmarried women under the age of 30 who, lured by the prospect of employment as maids, sales clerks or teachers end up in the black market of prostitution and sex slavery.

The phenomenon has emerged in full force in recent weeks and involves other nations on the continent including Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. 

According to government reports in Nairobi, desperate calls for help from Nigerians-men, but especially women-exploited in Southeast Asian countries are multiplying. So much so that actual warning messages are being issued, urging fellow citizens not to respond to job offers unless there are real confirmations and guarantees before departure. 

Kenya has no diplomatic representation in Myanmar. To regulate relations, it relies on the embassy in Thailand, which confirms increased cases of trafficking and enslavement, particularly in the last year with the Burmese military junta's rise to power following the February 2021 coup.

Young girls forced into prostitution come from low-income families with limited resources who must sell assets and land to cover the costs of the journey. 

Institutional sources report that the number of victims is increasing, while traffickers and labor brokers in Nairobi and other cities such as Eldoret make millions by exploiting young Kenyans seeking work abroad.

Unbeknownst to the victims, criminals procure and distribute 90-day tourist visas to facilitate entry into the country, then cut ties the moment the immigrants seeking employment realize they have fallen into a trap.

"Once they are abandoned in Thailand and Myanmar and without a return ticket," explains Nairobi's diplomatic representation in Bangkok, "it is up to the embassy and their families of origin to try to provide for their return home. 

At least five women were recently evacuated from Myanmar after asking for help. They are expected to be repatriated to Kenya via Bangkok shortly, but attention remains high to the dozens still caught up in the trafficking and others continue to be recruited in their home country with false job opportunities.

"Dozens more Kenyans arrived at Suvarnabhumi International Airport, all of whom were transferred across the border into Myanmar, following the same pattern as the previous groups. The embassy," the note concludes, "has received distress calls from about 30 fellow citizens, but we know there are more than 50 in Myanmar and three in Laos."

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