After a daunting task to bring back hundreds of Kenyans who were stranded in Beirut, Lebanon, their stories have continued to be full of despair and dejection. 99.9% of these returnees were ladies……. some expectant mothers and others with babies. CHTEA was deeply involved with their return and has continued to offer support to a minimal number due to strained resource base.
In actual sense, the stories which came through from these ladies upon their return leave a shocking trail of victimization, both away and back home Most of these victims had been away for periods ranging between 1 and 10 years. Most of them claimed to have been trafficked in the guise of well-paying jobs. Highly fictitious salaries were quoted by the recruitment agencies and worse still, their working environments turned out to be pale images of their own imaginations.
A majority of the victims (over 80%) reported having dangerously escaped from their alleged employers-turned exploiters and ended up on the streets of Beirut. Here, they huddled together in rent-shared small rooms as they sought to do menial jobs such as washing clothes/laundry, working at morgues, cleaners and massage parlours, among others. Most of them complained of very low earnings…………. hardly enough to pay for their bills. This forced a majority of these ladies to live double lives; it was either part-time prostitution, drug peddling or porn production.
With so little in earnings, the ladies could hardly afford to travel back home, even as they wished the whole reality could turn out to be a dream. A good number of them had resigned to their own fate and lost hope of ever coming back home. Most of them could not withstand the stigma of ever traveling back home with nothing, and yet their families and dependents hoped that their lives would change for the better.
For some, the pain was too heavy to bear, “my mother convinced my father to sell a piece of land in order for me to pay the trafficking agent a whopping two hundred thousand Kenya shillings (US $ 2000). My father sold on condition that I would send back money to buy another land. When I returned home with nothing, my mother had to put me into a rented room far from home to protect me from my brothers’ wrath. My mother was also afraid that her marriage to my father would lead to a divorce”.
Another returnee victim who came back six months’ expectant retorted that, “I am by the road side at the city stadium, stranded and with nowhere to go. My blood pressure is high, Am six months’ pregnant and I have nowhere to sleep. Kindly help. I was given your number by……………….,” read her WhatsApp message to a CHTEA staff.
It was even grimmer for others who found that all their remittances towards a savings scheme had been spent by close family members. Some had sent in money to buy land, others to pay for school fees for their children, while others expected a fat bank account. One of such victims was quoted to have said that, “had it not that I had no evidence for all the money I sent to my mother, I would have cut her into pieces and this conversation with you would not have happened at all as I would be in jail”.
The above stories are only a sample broken lives and a clear demonstration that most of the Kenyan-Lebanon returnees have continued to be victimized through stigma, rejection, further exploitation by family members and an unwelcoming community. A number of cases reported having been chased away from home………………. surviving on begging and well-wishers’ hand- outs. These and many more life breaking stories are just but a glimpse of how human trafficking totally dehumanizes victims and renders them completely helpless and creates further vulnerability for future trafficking realities.
So far, 125 Kenyans have returned since the commencement of evacuation in August 2020. The need for support is immense and has completely outstretched CHTEA’s capacity to help victims restart lives. Any contribution towards this end would be highly appreciated and transparently accounted for