NAIROBI, Kenya – Kenya police arrested 12 Somali nationals in the northeastern city of Garissa on Saturday, a senior police chief confirmed, and they will be arrested in court for explaining the motive behind their trip to the East African country without proper documentation.
The 12 foreigners are said to have sneaked across the porous border without valid documentation, the official said in an incident that raises questions about the country’s effectiveness in managing the borders, which has been an elephant in space.
Garissa Police Chief Joseph Muriuki said the suspects were ferried in a vehicle of the Garissa county government but had the government in Kenya license plates, something that further attacked suspicion of their trip to the country.
Usually, vehicles attached to the county authorities have special number plates for identification, which were introduced in 2013 when the country formally adopted the decentralized government systems. Those attached to the government also have special plates for identification.
Muriuki said the suspects were arrested at the Garissa-Tana bridge by police officers who demanded to see valid work permits. None of them had valid documentation at the time of the arrest, he added during a briefing to the media houses.
“Foreigners on board between the ages of 15 and 35 were all men, and we also sought to know who else could have helped their movement to Garissa and beyond,” Muriuki told reporters in Garissa, adding that the incident will be investigated.
He said the initial police investigation has since found that the foreigners who came from Mogadishu in Somalia were on their way to Nairobi, but their mission was not immediately established.
The police chief said the driver and foreigners will be arrested in court on Monday. Muriuki said investigations have been launched to determine who was behind the immigration racket.
Kenyan authorities have intensified the ongoing demolition of undocumented migrant workers who have seen the home assault and hundreds of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers arrested around the country.
The border between Kenya and Somalia is considered one of the most insecure, and the Kenyan government has increased surveillance in recent years through the Border Patrol Unit and a contingent from the Kenya Defense Forces [KDF], which possess critical points across the border.
Garissa is one of the counties that have fought violent al-Shabaab attacks constructed by terrorists from across the border. This year alone, the region has registered over 10 incidents that have left dozens of people dead, according to official government statistics.
Five years ago, the militants also looted Garissa University College in an attack that left 150 students dead. The attack remains the worst in Kenya’s history, and since then the multi-agency security team has camped in the region to dismantle the Al-Shabaab militants.