KNA Leaders in Magarini Sub County, Kilifi County, have expressed concern over the high numbers of child labourers in the administrative unit.
The leaders in particular pointed out that child labour was rampant in sand harvesting quarries within the sub county and called on relevant authorities to take remedial measures with a view to securing the future of children in the area.
During a crisis meeting attended by local Member of Parliament Michael Kingi and Magarini Assistant Commissioner Abigail Mulobi among others noted that very young children were being hired as casual labourers for extremely low pay.
The crisis meeting had been called to address a conflict between sand harvesters and transporters over loading charges.
Speaking during the meeting, Kingi warned those exploiting children in the lucrative sand harvesting industry that they would be severely punished in accordance with labour and child protection laws.
The legislator told security agencies in the area to immediately arrest and prosecute child exploiters. He told the newly posted Gongoni Officer Commanding Police Station (OCS) to swing in action in order and apprehend those abusing children.
“Those using children under the age of 18 years to harvest sand must be arrested. They know if they go through the loaders association it will be impossible so they go for small children to provide cheap labour and take the money,” he said.
The MP told the loaders to be on the lookout for any transporter using underage children to harvest sand and report to the security personnel for action to be taken against them. “Do not wait until the vehicle leaves the quarry but report immediately so that they are arrested and charged,” he implored.
He urged members of sand loaders associations to ensure that the pricing is the same for all quarries and resist the urge of being divided by drivers and owners of transport companies as this would lead to exploitation.
Kingi said all loaders should be registered and given identification documents, noting that he was ready to meet the cost of such registration, if any.
During the meeting, loaders complained that they were being underpaid by lorry drivers or owners.
Jacob Gona Konde, said a member of Mjanaheri Timboni Ngomeni loaders association (MJATINGO) absolved sand harvesters associations from blame, saying child labour was being promoted by non-members.
On her part, Ms Mulobi urged those who had attained the age of 18 years and above to apply for national identity cards before being admitted as members of the associations.