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Kenya’s immigration department has asked members of the public to report any foreigners working in the country without valid work permits.
Officials of the Department of Immigration Services made the request via Twitter during a live chat session on work permits Thursday morning.
The new Director of Immigration Services, Maj Gen (Rtd) Gordon Kihalangwa, who was appointed last month, was among those taking part in the chat.
The message on the department’s official Twitter account, reads: “Please report to us if you happen to know of any foreigner working without a work permit.”
It includes a mobile number that Maj Gen (Rtd) Kihalangwa recently set up to receive WhatsApp messages from the public.
This continues a push, begun in 2012, to replace thousands of foreign workers in Kenya with locals. Ironically, intense lobbying by Kenyan and other diplomats Wednesday forced neighbouring South Sudan to walk back on a “controversial” order by the Labour minister for all firms to eject foreign workers from that country.
The request also comes less than a week after India’s ambassador to Kenya and a British Member of Parliament separately complained about the department’s handling of work permit issues. The Indian envoy claimed China was getting preferential treatment, while the British MP sought to secure the release of a businessman arrested last week for not having the right work permit.
Kenya’s rules on entry and work permits, available in 13 classes depending on the nature of employment or business, were tightened last year to require all new or fresh applicants to get non-renewable two-year work documents. These are subject to the identification of a Kenyan understudy who will eventually take over the job.
Foreigners seeking to go into business must now prove they have at least Sh50 million, up from $100,000 (Sh8.8 million) previously. This followed changes in 2012 to introduce age, salary and professional restrictions, locking out foreigners under 35 and those making less than $24,000 a year, as well as medical, accounting, engineering, legal and real-estate professionals.
The latest changes have led to multiple permit denials, arrests and deportations. Last week saw one case brought to the attention of the British House of Commons (Parliament) and the UK Foreign Office by Andrew Griffiths, the member representing Uttoxeter.
It involves Graham Gallier, 60, allegedly arrested while discussing plans to set up a business with another Kenya-based English associate. Gallier, now in jail, claims he has been stranded in Kenya for three years because a court is holding his passport.
The latest crackdown also comes as the immigration department braves an investigation into the illegal issuance of work permits to foreigners. The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission had been investigating Maj-Gen (Rtd) Kahalangwa’s predecessor, Ms Jane Waikenda, for the alleged irregular award of 300 work permits to foreigners.
Former Immigration minister Otieno Kajwang’ has also been accused in Parliament of illegally issuing some half a million documents to foreigners, including entry and work permits.
– Business Daily