Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala has for the second time accused immigration officials of harassing tourists at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).
Speaking on Wednesday November 7 during an inspection tour of the airport, Balala said that his ministry has received numerous complaints from tourists regarding the “overzealous” approach by immigration and customs officials which according to him has not sat well with the visitors.
“We need to ensure that we adopt a professional way of processing tourists when they arrive in the country. We have done a lot of work to attract them and it would therefore not make any sense to water down all that effort by driving them away,” said Balala while raising his concerns.
Balala noted that most of the tourists are complaining of being harassed by the officials when handing over their luggage to be searched and at the airport’s parking lot.
“I am part of the team tasked with ensuring that JKIA reaches the required standard as projected by the government. Whereas I agree that we have made significant strides to ensure that we achieve that, we still have a long way to go. We should first of all work on making sure that tourists feel welcome and come into the country and leave with the right mindset,” added the CS.
This is not the first time that Balala is accusing immigration of harassing tourists.
On February 13, 2018, Balala in an interview on Citizen TV made the same claim saying that immigration should work with his ministry to come up with a formula of better handling tourists and called on the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) management to take the lead and ensure that immigration officers do not harass the tourists on their watch.
Similarly on January 10, 2018, Balala during a 5:30am impromptu visit to the airport by himself and fellow cabinet secretaries Fred Matiang’i (Interior) and James Macharia (Transport) expressed his dissatisfaction with the Immigration Department.
The visit was necessitated by complaints from tourists regarding inefficiency at the airport including slow processing and harassment.