The Immigration Department was on Wednesday forced to respond to mistreatment claims by a Nigerian national, an incident said to have taken place last week at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).
Michael Ernest on December 27, 2019, took to micro-blogging site Twitter to castigate the immigration officials at the JKIA citing discrimination and harassment.
Ernest, a marketing and communications professional, had been in Kenya for about six days to celebrate Christmas and had booked a Kenya Airways flight to Maputo, Mozambique, for new year celebrations.
“I arrived Kenya 21st and today 27th I was to get to Maputo from Nairobi only for immigration officers to stop me insinuating the following a. I could have a fake ticket (like really?)…That I and Nigerians are criminal (I was criminalized without even verifying or even taking a look at my ticket, travel history or anything. All it took was a sight of my green passport. My passport wasn’t even opened by any of the immigration officers,” said Ernest.
“My encounter was met with condescending, discriminatory & xenophobic ￼remarks. As if that wasn’t enough, the immigration officer also lied (further assassinating my character) that I raised my voice at him when confronted by a staff [aiport staff].
In a statement, the Immigration Department, however, denied claims that the complainant was labelled a criminal saying what he was subjected to was a “standard procedure” for people who don’t have onward tickets to their home country or countries of residence.
“Possession of a return/onward ticket is a standard requirement for all passengers either to be allowed entry or departure to a third country where they are not nationals or residents, ” the statement from the Immigration Department reads.
The government stated that Earnest was in the company of others who were also destined for Maputo and one was cleared to travel after the officials at JKIA established that he was a resident of Rwanda.
“Michael was in the company of others on the material day. They were destined for Maputo and on reaching the JKIA immigration departure counters, they were asked for onward tickets to their home country or countries of residence. It was then established that one of the said passengers was a resident of Rwanda and he was cleared to proceed to Maputo, ” the statement adds.
“…we wish to state that Michael was not singled out because of his nationality and neither was he called a criminal.”
In his last week tweets, Ernest revealed that he had filed a complaint to the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority for discrimination and harassment.
He also asked Kenya Airways to refund him over losses he incurred travelling back to Lagos, Nigeria, before heading to Maputo.
“Now I am forced to return to Lagos and I have booked a different airline for my trip to Mozambique for later dates. This has set me back with over $1000 also my accommodation and tours in Mozambique all have a strict cancellation policy and on that end is another $1000, ” he wrote.