Challenges of Kenyans in Diaspora who are out of status


There are various categories of Kenyans in the diaspora. The first are Kenyans who lawfully live and work in the countries where they reside. In this group are Kenyans who have acquired valid employment and (in the case of the US) Green Card visas. The second category are Kenyans who left the country legally but ended up overstaying their visa. Others simply cheated their way in, searching for greener pastures abroad.

In this group are students and visitor/business visa seekers, many of whom either drop out of school or simply overstay, melting into the American pot. The precise figure of Kenyans in the diaspora, whether documented or not, is hard to come by. But it is a fact that hundreds of thousands of Kenyans today live and work in the diaspora. As the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission seeks to register Kenyans in the diaspora and encourage them to vote for the presidency in the 2017 elections, there are challenges to be faced.

Challenge number one is that of self-identity. Persons who are out of status would not be ready and willing to identify themselves as such to the authorities. They live in perpetual fear of being found out by immigration, getting arrested and facing immediate deportation back to Kenya where they would live in misery. Those in the diaspora, like Kenyans residing in the country, need identity papers such as national identity cards or valid passports to register and vote. In many cases, Kenyans in the diaspora either do not have valid visas or passports to file the kind of information and papers the IEBC would want.

This would mean exposing themselves to immigration officials in countries where they reside. Many illegal Kenyan immigrants would rather play hide-and-seek games with immigration authorities than face deportation, or any brush with the local laws. This is because, despite the problems Kenyans in the diaspora have to endure, particularly those without papers, they can easily find jobs — not only to take care of themselves but also their families and extended families back in Kenya.

In countries like the United States of America, undocumented workers easily get engaged in places such as fast-food establishments, shopping malls and hotels. These Kenyans cannot risk losing these jobs by exposing their illegal status in the name of registering to vote for elections in Kenya.

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