Foreign affairs ministry ordered by speaker to rescue a trafficked victim in Saudi Arabia

Daily Nation, 4th October 2012

Foreign Affairs assistant minister Richard Onyonka has been directed to accompany Juja MP William Kabogo to Saudi Arabia to rescue a woman reported to be detained by her employer. Read (Kenyans in Saudi to get better working conditions)

National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende said it was the best thing to do to save Ms Rosemary Wariera Nduati, said to be undergoing serious maltreatment in the hands of her employer, in Saudi Arabia.

Mr Kabogo has been pursuing the matter on the floor of Parliament without success. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs only responded by saying it had not made progress to reach the woman.

However, Mr Kabogo put the ministry to shame after tabling in Parliament a recording of a conversation he said he had had with the woman on telephone.

The woman makes desperate cries in the conversation calling out for assistance.

Mr Kabogo said he managed to trace and reach the woman through his own efforts.

He told his colleagues in yesterday’s parliamentary sessions that he engaged a private detective who traced the girl after unsuccessfully trying to engage the ministry.

“I gave the ministry the recording but they have done nothing,” said an exasperated Kabogo. He said the girl cries in the conversation saying she only eats left overs and pleads to be rescued.

The Speaker granted the MP’s request to have the minister for Foreign Affairs accompany him to Jeddah to bring the girl back home.

The minister was directed to plan for, and make the trip with the MP within two weeks and report back to the House. The ministry will also cater for the MP’s travel expenses.

“I advise that you do so within 14 days from today, travel with the MP and come back to this House with a report,” ordered the House Speaker.

The minister was at the same time ordered to investigate and report back to Parliament within the same period allegations that some officers in the ministry were collecting money from gullible Kenyans and taking them to Saudi Arabia where some are reported to be ending up in slavery.

Mr Kabogo claimed that in the case of Ms Nduati, the ministry had all the information it required to take action, including details of the persons holding her, but had done nothing about it.

“There is a cartel making money through this thing in the ministry,” he said.

Mr Onyonka, responding to questions about the case, claimed the Kenyan ambassador in Jeddah was overwhelmed and lacked the capacity to follow up on the cases.

“The ambassador has really been working tirelessly; he has tried his best but these cases have been very many. It is hard to trace some cases,” he said.

He added that the ambassador was yet to get Ms Nduati’s travel documents from the Ministry of Immigration in Jeddah.

The assistant minister said he too had heard about “rumours” about corrupt officials in the ministry involved in the Saudi manpower export business, but could not confirm them.

“I have nothing substantive to qualify the allegations,” he said.

Last month, the assistant minister told Parliament the ministry was not aware that Ms Nduati was missing.

He said her employer’s telephone number provided by the Juja MP was passed on to the Embassy in Riyadh and it had tried on several occasions to reach the woman, but in vain.

He advised Ms Nduati’s next of kin to contact the recruitment agency that arranged for her to travel to Saudi Arabia to provide the ministry with alternative contacts of the employer, so that the ministry “could try and see whether it could reach her”.

There has been an increase in reports of harsh working conditions for domestic workers in Saudi Arabia as well as more cases of mistreatment.

Reports include slave-like conditions, torture and even death in the countries where Kenyans go to work.

However, the assistant minister defended the labour export saying not all Kenyans who go to the Middle East end up in cruel hands.

He added that househelps formed a very small fraction of Kenyans seeking employment in the Middle East.

“There are many Kenyans who are working peacefully and earning a decent living in many countries within the Arab World and, indeed, globally,” he said.

The minister said cases of maltreatment are unique “in the sense that they have been one-offs.”

In response to the numerous cases of cruelty, the Government suspended recruitment of domestic workers to the Middle East, specifically to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The ministry said this will be until it streamlines the recruitment of Kenyans to make sure that none is further harmed.

MPs have declared the cases human trafficking cases.

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