Corruption in the Immigration Department and police service has made it easy for foreigners to enter Kenya and secure ID cards in a matter of weeks, Nation has established.
In the midst of growing terrorism threats and the resultant crackdown on illegal immigrants, the Nation traced the underground routes through which foreigners enter the country and secure key identification documents with the connivance of corrupt officials in departments clustered under the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government.
At the core of the racket are brokers known as ‘mukallas’ by immigrants who operate with utmost secrecy, thriving in jargon and masterminding specific routes.
The immigrants are mainly from Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Sudan, who sneak in through porous borders and make their way by road to the Isiolo town where they begin the process of securing ID cards and passports.
Thereafter, they make their way to Nairobi or other places of their choice.
Mr Ibrahim Hassan, the officer in charge of Prisons in Isiolo, where those unfortunate enough to be caught are held for deportation, said the dream to gain entry into Kenya is overwhelming for the foreigners.
“Coming to Kenya, for them, is like the American dream. They sell everything they have to give brokers the money who sneak them into the country,” he says.
Mr Hassan says fining the immigrants is a waste of time since most of them do not have any money with them.
“Because it is expensive to accommodate the high number, we recommend that they be deported as soon as they have been arrested,” he says.
The border town of Moyale, which lies on the North Corridor, is cited as the key point where foreigners from Ethiopia and Somalia converge before heading to Isiolo.
Somali immigrants mainly enter Kenya through Mandera and then proceed to Moyale using local guides.
From Moyale, they are able to navigate their way to Isiolo despite the highway between the two towns having having nearly a dozen security checks.
The ‘mukallas’ have links to networks in the police who alert them about the security barriers.
For instance, when a truck full of illegal immigrants is a kilometre away from a roadblock, the passengers are told to alight and walk through bushes, and then board the truck again past the checkpoint.
“We catch up with the truck a kilometre after the roadblock. All along we are led by someone who knows the terrain well,” an immigrant who spoke in confidence to the Nation in Isiolo Town said.
Mr George Naibei, the police chief at Archers Post in the outskirts of Isiolo, said most of the immigrants arrested are from Ethiopia.
The Nation learnt it is difficult to arrest immigrants from Somalia because they are well-connected and well-oiled with money.
This makes it easier for them to make their way through bribes.
“We have arrested several, especially when the water levels at the Ewaso river are high, this makes it difficult for them to cross, so they have to use a vehicle,” Mr Naibei says.
Isiolo Town is their first port of call beacuse of its strategic location and ethnic mix, which akes it easy to melt into the local population.
Investigations led the Nation team to a man only identified as “Mr Harrison”, who had at the ready all the tools for processing identity cards.
Mr Harrison has a camera for taking passport photos, a roller for taking finger prints, IDs’ registration forms and a vehicle.
Thr Nation team met a group of 15 beneficiaries of Harrison’s services at Nairobi’s Eastleigh. They were not supposed to get out of the house until their IDs were ready.
To reach Harrison on phone, one has to use a certain jargon.“When you are seeking his help you say, ‘niko na mbuzi iko Kiamaiko, unaweza zinunua?’ (I have goats at Kiamaiko, can you buy them?),” says a middleman.
After agreeing on the mode of payment, the immigrants revealed, Harrison takes a down payment and then embarks on making the IDs.
“He came into the house where we were waiting already armed with a camera, a roller and the forms,” the source told the Nation.
The immigrants readily paid the money and Harrison took their credentials and set off for Isiolo.
“He told us the IDs would be ready in three weeks, he was paid Sh100,000 on the spot, he is known to deliver, so we had no reason to doubt him,” the source revealed.
In Isiolo, Nation learnt, Mr Harrison goes into the interior, where he convinces poor peasants parents to provide their IDs and accept and pose as parents of the applicants in exchange of between Sh1,000 and Sh2,000.
Mr Hassan Hokicha, a chief in Isiolo admits it is difficult to prove that the applicant is fake.
“We normally tell applicants to bring their birth certificates to prove they are from this area, but sometimes they say they have attained the age of getting an ID and they do not have any education, so do we turn them away yet the parents have said the applicants are their sons or daughters,” he says.
Mr Harrison then forwards the forms to the registrar of persons office in Isiolo using his contact inside.
The forms are brought to Nairobi for processing like all normal applications. After three weeks, the genuine Kenyan IDs are ready for collection.
Harrison brings them to the owners, who now become citizens of the country from Isiolo County, gets his cut and goes back to Isiolo to wait for another deal.
With the ongoing police swoop in the country, we were told, Mr Harrison is lying low.
By the time of going to press, we had forwarded all the details of Harrison to the CID and Immigration Department.