Foreign pilots arrested at JKIA over lack of work permits

Six foreign pilots operating from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi have been arrested for being in business without work permits. They six were arrested on Monday in an ongoing crackdown on illegal immigrants in the country.

A multi-agency team conducting the exercise said they are looking for more pilots who are in the country illegally. “Ask the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority to tell you how many pilots have been licensed to operate in the country and how many have work permits,” said an official in the team.

KCAA Director General Capt Gilbert Kibe said he was not aware the pilots don’t have work permits. He said the agency licenses genuine pilots and anyone found to be here illegally should be punished in accordance with the law. “If there are some who do not have work permits that is news to me and they should be punished accordingly. I support authorities in this,” he said. Kibe could not provide the list of foreign pilots licensed by the agency to operate in the country.

An official aware of the situation said some of the pilots are doing jobs that can be handled by Kenyans. “They operate with impunity. No country can allow such kind of activities witnessed in the sector,” said an official aware of the operation. Those arrested include an Algerian, one from Sudan, a Honduran, one from DRC Congo and two Canadians.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi signed their deportation papers on Tuesday. The team said they were looking for four other Congolese pilots operating from JKIA to Somalia after they learnt they do not have work permits. Some of those targeted had come to the country as tourists but ventured into the business. More than 2,000 foreigners have been deported from Kenya in the past month alone, in one of the boldest crackdowns aimed at streamlining the corruption-prone process of issuing work permits in the country.

More than 60 managers of high-end hotels, businessmen and experts have also been deported after they sneaked into the country in questionable circumstances. Foreigners seeking to come to work in Kenya now have to apply for permits while in their home countries before they obtain visas to travel. A hard copy of the 173-page register has been dispatched to all police stations in the country to ease the process of identifying foreigners allowed to work in the country.

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