by Fabian Mangera and Stephen Ingati
ISIOLO, Kenya, March 1 (Xinhua) — Kenyan authorities said Sunday they have repatriated more than 500 Ethiopian illegal immigrants in the past two months in an effort to de-congest prison facilities in northern Kenya.
Isiolo County Prison Commander Hassan Ibrahim confirmed Sunday the last batch of the 105 aliens at a prison in Isiolo were repatriated on Saturday in a convoy of heavily-guarded trucks through Moyale to Ethiopia.
There was a huge sigh of relief among inmates at the Isiolo Prison after hundreds of aliens who had been sentenced at the facility for a period of six months were repatriated.
The presence of the hundreds of the Ethiopians at the correctional facilities in Northern Kenya resulted to a serious congestion.
Ibrahim said the facility is meant to hold only 150 prisoners, but the number hit almost 400 last month.
“Several Ethiopians have been sneaking into the country without travel documents. Most of them say they go to either Tanzania or South Africa in search of jobs,” Ibrahim said, adding that the authorities have interrogated the aliens and established that they were not criminals but mere job seekers before recommending their repatriation.
Ibrahim said if such decisions are made early, it could save taxpayers’ money, adding that the aliens had already consumed up to 87,600 U.S. dollars which could be used to perform other development functions.
The prison authorities sent home 383 Ethiopian aliens in December last year after the High Court reviewed their sentences. Ibrahim said the aliens were the main reason for the congestion at the Isiolo facility.
He said apart from food, the prisoners also require uniforms and beddings, which he said, are not enough hence forcing him to transfer some of the inmates to other prisons such as Embu to ease the pressure of congestion in Isiolo.
Ibrahim said that even at the moment, they are holding more than 300 prisoners which is still more than double the capacity.
Hundreds of Ethiopian aliens illegally find their way into the country through the porous border daily in search for employment in South Africa and other parts of the country. A number of aliens die on their way through the desert either due to lack of water or vehicle breakdown as they escape the police arrest in the wilderness.
Those who were arrested find themselves in wrong hands because they don’t have valid travel documents. The illegal immigrants have on several occasions been discovered locked up in congested rooms in Kenyan towns and cities but the trade continues to thrive even as many were repatriated.
The authorities have blamed the vastness of the region for the runaway influx of foreigners into Kenya through Moyale on Kenya- Ethiopia borders. But refugee rights organizations and aid agencies have blamed poverty in Africa for the rising cases of human trafficking.