Seven Kenyans are stranded in Ras Kamboni in Jubaland, Somalia, after they were denied entry back into the country due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The seven travelled to Kismayu, Somalia, for a welding job they were contracted to do.
Four of them – Patrick Shingula Mwangala, Martin Mwaghazi, Ignas Kialu Mwanyumba and Michael Mjala – flew to Kismayu via Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on January 6.
They were joined on January 25 by Gabriel Kennedy Otieno, Elia Mwalili and Abass Mutuku.
However, the first batch, according to Muslims for Human Rights, discovered the job involved dismantling wrecked warships, some with explosives.
“They were forced to work without a contract despite agreeing that they would sign one after assessing the job. They verbally agreed with their employer on Sh40,000 monthly pay,” Muhuri chair Khelef Khalifa said.
The seven, who reside in Mombasa and Nairobi, anticipated the work would last a year, but it turned out to be a three-month job.
When they finished work on March 31, the Kenyan government had closed its borders and cancelled international flights. This meant they could not fly back home.
They were advised by company officials, who had themselves flown back to Nairobi before closure of the border, to use the sea to access Kenya through Ras Kamboni.
They left Kismayu on April 5 by sea and were spotted a day later in Ras Kamboni by Somali police and immigration officials, who confiscated their travel documents.
“Two KDF officers, three Somali police and two immigration officials interrogated the workers,” Khalifa said, adding that they were then released but instructed to write to Kenya to be allowed entry.
They contacted Lamu county commissioner Irungu Macharia, who said the borders had been closed, and they could not gain any entry.
Speaking to the Star on the phone on Tuesday, Macharia said there was no entry point in Kiunga where their travel documents would be stamped.
“How did they get to Somalia? They should have used the same route to come back. If flights are cancelled and airspace closed, they should contact the Kenyan embassy in Somalia, not opting for panya routes,” Macharia said.
He said it was criminal to try to sneak back into the country.
Macharia said there would be a diplomatic problem should the seven come out of Somalia without exit stamps, yet they have entry stamps.
“It is not that we are refusing them entry. They should follow the right channel, not panya routes,” the administrator said.
Macharia said Muhuri has not yet grasped the bigger picture.
Ras Kambooni is near the Kenyan border with Somalia in Lamu.
The seven, who have been sleeping on the streets in Ras Kamboni, have depleted their food and money which they earned while working in Kismayu.
On Tuesday, Muhuri wrote to Interior CS Fred Matiang’i asking him to intervene.
“The Kenyans have remained locked outside the country for 29 days as of May 5,” they told Matiang’i in the letter.
Khalifa said just as the government has shown willingness to evacuate its citizens stranded in India, UK and China, they should also consider the seven.
However, Macharia said the seven will be helped if they contact the Kenyan embassy and explain their situation.
He said they should have come back home before March 25 when the country’s borders were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Edited by A.N