About 1,300 ‘held in foreign prisons’

Seth Onyango @SethManex

About 1,300 Kenyans are languishing in foreign prisons with some of them serving life sentences, Foreign Affairs Cabinet secretary Monica Juma has revealed. She said this is comparison to 2,000 foreigners being held in Kenyan for committing several offences during their stay in the country.

It has emerged that out of those in foreign jails, 478 Kenyans have already been convicted with a majority of them serving life sentences. Speaking when she unveiled the government’s foreign policy blueprint, Juma said out of that number, 47 are in Uganda, 79 in Tanzania and 15 in Ethiopia.

She, however, did not state how many are on death row, but assured of her ministry’s commitment to ensuring those in prison are treated fairly.

“There is nothing unusual about Kenyans being in foreign jails, however, we have negotiated a number of extradition treaties. Those come with conditionality, in terms of how we can bring them to serve term at home,” she assured.

Juma said every country that arrests and jails a Kenyan is ordinarily supposed to inform the government. “If any Kenyan is arrested, or jailed before we are informed, we will and have protested because it is against international law,” she said.

“Our policy is not to interfere with the legal process of a sovereign nation but we try as much as possible to ensure that they have consular support, and retain the right to visitation,” said Washington Oloo, the director of Diaspora and Consular Services in the ministry. Meanwhile, there have also been reported cases of domestic workers who have been incarcerated in Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia and Lebanon.

“We have been in very intense negotiations with Saudi Arabia, particularly relating to protection of Kenyans that have up jobs there,” she said.

Last year, Kenya signed a labour agreement with the Middle Eastern country, stating the necessity for protection of Kenyans. “But we also placed some responsibilities on our citizens reporting to the government that they are in those foreign countries,” she said.

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