Kenyan diaspora seek involvement in bilateral immigration talks

By: AGGREY MUTAMBO

Kenyans living abroad have asked the government to seek their input when negotiating for bilateral immigration agreements.

At a press conference in Nairobi, the Kenya Diaspora Alliance (KDA), a federation of 34 Kenya diaspora lobby groups around the world said they welcome two recent agreements the country signed with the US and South Africa.

“We know that there are challenges in different parts of the world and we are glad that something is happening. We encourage the government to escalate it even more and work with diaspora organisations because we recognise the government cannot do this on its own,” Dr Shem Ochuodho, the KDA global chairman told journalists in Nairobi.

“Some of our members are senior citizens in those countries, they can always wear different hats and try to negotiate for us. Let us take advantage of that,” he said.

Last month, Kenya signed a memorandum of understanding with the US on visa duration, a deal what would allow Kenyans extended validity of visa from the current one year to five years.

The agreement will benefit students, temporary visitors, business people and tourists travelling to the US.

FREE TRANSIT

Last week, Kenya and South Africa struck a deal to reduce visa application costs by Sh2,100 and allow free transit for Kenyans with visa to countries neighbouring South Africa.

The South African agreement also allowed student visa renewals be done in South Africa as opposed to current situation where one has to travel back to Kenya and reapply.

Despite failure to address the issue of lengthy visa application procedure, the KDA chairman said the agreement with South Africa is a positive step by the government to easing immigration problems facing Kenyans.

“It is good to note that the government is also opening up consulates to help reach as many Kenyans as possible,” Dr Ochuodho.

KDA says it represents about 250,000 of the estimated three million Kenyans in the diaspora.

The Foreign Affairs ministry has also assured Kenyans that it has a policy to address their issues.

Addressing Kenyans in Kampala, Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed said the policy will ensure that they are part of the transformation happening in Kenya.

Her remarks were in regard to the issues of Kenyans lacking support whenever they are in trouble abroad and what they argued was lack of policy to encourage them to invest back home.

“We want our brothers and sisters working abroad to be part of the transformation taking place at home.

“Here in Uganda, these efforts have resulted in the waiver of work and resident permits. Moreover, we are targeting to enhance the provision of consular services by strengthening existing missions as well as opening new ones in countries with many Kenyans,” she told a group of Kenyans at the Kampala Serena Hotel on Sunday.