MODERN DAY SLAVERY ”MIDDLE EAST DOMESTIC LABOUR EXPORT UNBAN UNWISE”

By Paul Adhoch

On 3rd December 2013, the Jubilee government quietly reviewed the ban placed on the export of domestic workers to the Middle East and the Persian Gulf Countries. The Grand Coalition government had banned the same in September 2012, following hue and cry by many exploited returnee in the preceding years. In undertaking this action, the Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary did no communicate any new guidelines or modalities that have been put in place to warrant their action. Whatever informed the government, there is need to understand the context of the ban and the subsequent actions taken by the Kibaki administration.

Let us contextualize this situation. The Persian Gulf countries have a visa system called the Kafala. The system ties the employee to the employer for the duration of the contract, often two years, which is prone to abuse and exploitation. Whereas there may be many good employers, often, employees are overworked, underpaid, their passports confiscated, their communication back home restricted, no leave nor allowances for such and no off duties, local contacts curtailed for the entire period of their contracts – in many cases at least two years, In some instances, the employer forbids the employee from going back home allegedly to repay some lost hours or household item destroyed or some ruse of a similar nature. An employee who runs away to seek help from such exploitation would often find themselves in detention camps as undocumented workers without much hope of assistance – This is, by any definition, modern day slavery.

In 2008, Bahrain was the first country to claim to repeal the kafala system at which time the Labor Minister equated it to “slavery”. Effective August 2009, there were changes in the Labor Market Regulations, allowing among others, the employee to give quit notices of up to 3 months, and change employees and even nature of work, review contracts against what they signed for, renegotiate terms and conditions and so on and so forth. Thus Bahrain became a “free country” as opposed to the other emirates and kingdoms in the Persian Gulf. In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for instance, the employer must give explicit permission to an employee for legitimacy status in the country. This has often been abused by some unscrupulous employers well in contravention of Article 13 of the United Nations Conventions of Human Rights.

Due to the impending FIFA world Cup 2022, Qatar has been forced to review its labor practices following pressure from the football body and human rights organizations. As at 2010, 94% of workers in manual jobs were from the Far East and often faced exploitative work practices, including need for permission to open bank accounts, rent a house, or even just make a short travel to visit friends. The situation has been remedied by the FIFA program.

At this moment in time, and perhaps this is what informed the Foreign Affairs Office in Nairobi, there is a huge opportunity for domestic labour and low skilled labour in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, besides the lower cadre workers in the rest of the Middle East. In KSA for instance, just recently, the Kingdom expelled close to 139,000 low cadre Ethiopian workers, including 45,000 female domestic workers considered undocumented. At the same time, Qatar is busy shaping up for the FIFA 2012 games and need many semi-skilled and unskilled fundis, hence the frenzy by Middle East based and local Employment Agents to recruit for this labour gap.

In the face of all this, we wish to make the following proposals: While the ban may not have served much purpose anyway, the current unbanning may not be wise either. However, the Cabinet secretaries for Foreign Affairs and Labour matters should concertedly ensure that all domestic workers and other workers exported to the Middle East and to any foreign country for that matter are regularized through the relevant Kenyan Embassies. The recent South Sudan scenario may have served as a good reference case. Secondly; that recruitment agents are compelled to translate terms and conditions of employment and ensure these are understood by prospective employees, including exit clauses in the event of any exploitative circumstances. Third that the government uses its bilateral and multilateral leverage to protect citizens through the establishment of a Labour Market Regulatory Authority in the line with the Bahrain example rather than have a kafala-like arrangement for Kenyan workers. In fact, Kenyans are basically running the Aviation and Hospitality insustry in some emirate countries at middle level management; something that can be pursued at government to government level to ensure job opportunity for many qualified citizens. Finally, that the Kenya Association of Private Employment Agencies seek to root out unscrupulous agents who use falsehood to recruit workers in contravention of the katiba and the Counter Trafficking in Persons Act 2010.

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Kenyans in Saudi to get better working conditions

Nation September 25  2012 

Kenyans headed to Saudi Arabia for jobs could soon find better working conditions and less harassment by their employers.

A framework on how to manage the transfer of labour from the country to the Asian country is in the offing.

The Saudi Arabian government is set to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Kenyan government on  the intricate issue of labour work force.

The memorandum will also be signed alongside another one on tourism, according to Saudi Arabian ambassador to Kenya Mr Ghorm Malhan.

Hundreds of jobless Kenyans have found themselves in hostile territory when they leave the country for  Saudi Arabia after being lured by unscrupulous agencies.

Most of them seeking unskilled jobs have been abused and locked up in highly protected homes and only manage to escape and return home as refugees.

The MOU is expected to address these issues and ensure a fair and acceptable system where Kenyans will be able to seek legitimate jobs in the oil-rich country.

Mr Malhan further said Saudi Arabia was working on more economically viable trade partnerships with the country.

“We are working on modalities to export livestock from Kenya to our country,” Mr Malhan said.

The ambassador was addressing guests during celebrations of the Saudi Arabian National Day at the Laico Regency Hotel Monday night.

Kenya Government Halts Domestic Workers Recruitment to Middle East over Mis-Treatments

Published by East African Standard on 22nd June 2012 by Joylene Sing’oei

The Government has suspended recruitment and export of domestic workers to Middle East following several complaints of harassment by employers.

In a press statement released Friday, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Political and Diplomatic Secretary Patrick Wamoto said many Kenyans seeking employment in the Middle East as domestic workers especially housekeepers and maids have ended up in distress.

Wamoto added that the complains the ministry receive range from mistreatment, lack of payment of salaries, overwork, denial of food and lack of communication with their relatives in Kenya.

“The Government wishes to reiterate its commitment to the protection and welfare of all citizens, including those outside the country. We are working on a mechanism, including but not limited to, vetting of all recruitment agents afresh and signing of Labour frameworks Agreement with various countries to address some of the concerns raised by the distressed Kenyans in the Middle East”, read part of the Statement.

Most of the Kenyan migrants to Middle East earn their livelihoods as drivers, technicians, salesmen, security guards, engineers, accountants, bankers and domestic workers.

Cases of Kenyans being abused and even killed in Saudi Arabia have been on the increase.

As the quest for working abroad heightens for many skilled and semi-skilled Kenyans, only a handful know the implications of working in countries where labour laws are hardly emphasised.

Some have even ignored media reports of gross brutality toward foreign labourers in some countries and gone ahead to embark on trips abroad, expecting greener pastures only to undergo modern-day slavery.

A Sad Story from a Victim of Human Trafficking from Saudi Arabia

Story by Nation 9th April 2012

Another victim of human-trafficking, who was lured to Saudi Arabia with promises of a well-paying job, returned home early this week with tales of tribulations and suffering.

 Ms Jane Wanjiku narrated to the Nation how her Saudi Arabian boss turned her into a slave by forcing her to work for long hours without a break and subjecting her to inhuman treatment.

Ms Wanjiku first heard of well-paying job opportunities in Saudi Arabia through a friend, who introduced her to agents in Nairobi. A deal was struck for Ms Wanjiku to take up a job as a caretaker for a disabled child.

Repay the expenses

Two weeks after leaving Nairobi for Saudi last December 28, she found the conditions unbearable but her boss rejected her plea to return home on grounds that she had to repay the expenses they had incurred on her.

“I wanted to come back because it was too much for me but they refused. I spoke to the agent and they took me to another home”, the 47-year-old told the Nation on Monday.

Although she thought the move would bring reprieve, it turned out to be a plunge from the frying pan to the fire.

She said her hopes crushed upon realisation that food was laced with drugs just like in her previous work place. Matters became even worse because she was forced to eat the food.

“They urged me to eat, saying it was important for my health but I realised the food was laced with drugs. I had no option and ate a little food,” the mother of four said.

She claimed her food was always served from a different tray which made her suspect a sinister motive.

She then sought the help of a local woman for interpretations of Arabic, which her employer’s family spoke and realised they intended to kill her.

“The woman told me they wanted to kill me because I was too inquisitive. They thought I would narrate my tribulations and that could possibly spoil their market,” Ms Wanjiku claimed.

It is for that reason that she believes her life is still in danger after unknown people allegedly trailed her on Sunday upon arrival back to Kenya.

But when contacted, Al-Kaki Enterprises & Travel manager Julius Kimemia (the agents recruiting the domestic workers) denied the allegations, saying she was flown back to the country purely on medical grounds.

“I talked to the woman yesterday (Sunday) when she was still at the airport and she said she was unwell. I don’t have any information regarding those claims, but we will look into them,” Mr Kimemia told the Nation on phone.

 

 

But even as Mr Kimemia insisted Ms Wanjiku was never assaulted, she revealed bruises and injuries on her body to indicate that she had been tortured.

 Ms Wanjiku claimed to have become unconscious for several hours one day after being forced to eat food laced with drugs only to wake up with pain in her stomach. She said her health has deteriorated since.

But the worst experience for Ms Wanjiku was when she was locked up in a roof-less room without food for three days.

“That is when I contemplated committing suicide. I prayed to God for it was all I could do,” she said. She jumped through a small window into the next building from where police took her to hospital. It was while at the hospital that the host family coordinated her return journey.

Cruel Story of Human Trafficking of a Kenyan Girl in Lebanon

Video Source: KBC April 1st 2012

The young Victoria Wambui was trafficked to Lebanon last year in June. While there, she passed through horrendous experiences. Victoria’s mother  is suffering from stroke, hence when the chance appeared to get a job presented itself, Victoria embraced it with the hope that she will find resources to help her mother.

While in Lebanon, she was not paid for her first two months;  as this money was paid to the Lebanese agents. She had not been informed of this earlier. She was being beaten with heavy electric wires. Her legs as a result started swelling and oozing water. She was on various occasions denied food. At one time she was strangled until she passed out.

Well, what Victoria passed through was such inhuman. We just ask ourselves, which person would treat another person like this? For sure Middle East governments should act too against their own citizens who have little humanity in their hearts. On the other hand, where are the civil societies in these countries to speak for these “poor slaves“??

Slavery was an old practice yet so new

Find more art against trafficking on facebook here

In this picture Gado recounts a sad story of slave trade before the 19th Century. According to the texts more than 20 million Africans were taken to slavery in other lands. Five times more were killed in the hunt for slavery. The slaves faced horrendous experiences in the hands of their masters. The masters could beat them thoroughly and even kill them. Has the situation changed in modern times? NO! It has not. Today there are many people across the world  in slavery. However some of the sad stories have been the many deaths of those trafficked to the Middle East. It seems that our governments owing to resource paucity cannot adequately protect the citizens. There is need however for more awareness campaigns. The government on the other hand should look at ways to address this problem such as arresting the quack employment agencies.

How embassy staff collude with cartels to con Kenyans

Ms Fatuma Athuman, 25, after she arrived in Kenya on January 11,2010 from Saudi Arabia with both hands broken by  her former employer.

Photo/FILE Ms Fatuma Athuman, 25, after she arrived in Kenya on January 11,2010 from Saudi Arabia with both hands broken by her former employer.

By PATRICK MAYOYO pmayoyo@ke.nationmedia.com
Posted  Sunday, March 25  2012 at  22:30

An international human trafficking ring is working with employees of some embassies in Kenya to recruit unsuspecting Kenyans into forced labour in the Middle East.

The cartel lures Kenyans by placing advertisements of well-paying job opportunities in United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Qatar or Kuwait in local newspapers.

Desperate young men and women, some of them university graduates, apply for the jobs, pay travel and contract processing fees only to end up as domestic workers and labourers.

The racketeers alternatively use their local agents to convince jobless youths to sign up for jobs abroad without following the required procedure.

All foreign employers are supposed to inform the Ministries of Labour and Foreign Affairs of vacancies in their countries before seeking applications from Kenyans.

In the recent past, scores of Kenyans have fallen prey to these crooks. Now the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is warning jobseekers to beware of fake employment agencies.

The ministry wants all Kenyans seeking employment abroad to ensure their contracts are scrutinised by the Ministry of Labour and approved before taking up any offers.

It has also established a diaspora desk and wants Kenyans seeking jobs outside the country to register with it.

Foreign Affairs minister Moses Wetang’ula, told Parliament early this month that some employees at the Saudi Arabia embassy were working with unlicensed recruitment agents to traffic Kenyans into forced labour.

“Sir, that problem actually involves a criminal network. We have engaged the Saudi ambassador in Kenya and he has advised us that, in fact, there are some members of staff at the embassy who work in cahoots with those crooked recruitment agents,” Mr Wetang’ula told a shocked Parliament.

The minister was responding to Lamu West MP Fahim Twaha, whose constituent Tashrifa Mohamed Said was found abandoned on the streets of Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, without any documentation.

Mr Wetang’ula said Ms Said was a victim of dubious recruitment agents and the government was making plans to return her home.

Ms Said is just one of the many Kenyans who have in the past two months been subjected to untold suffering in the Middle East after being lured with promises of well-paying jobs that never were.

The minister said most of the victims were from Mombasa, Kilifi, Lamu and Kinoo near Nairobi.

“They recruit young Kenyans, mainly girls, and collect very heavy commissions, take them to Saudi Arabia and dump them there in the hands of equally crooked employers who abuse those young Kenyans.

”We have said that any Kenyans going to work out there should report to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and leave their details there. They should also report at the embassy upon arrival,” he said.

 Mr Wetang’ula said the Ministry of Labour was signing agreements with countries in Middle East where Kenyans are seeking employment to protect them.

“The Minister for Labour recently signed an agreement with the government of the United Arab Emirates to regulate the working conditions of our nationals working there.

”Right now, I believe that the minister is in Qatar signing a similar agreement to also regulate the conditions of Kenyans working there,” he said.

And the US in its latest report on human trafficking says the government reported 236 investigations, 10 prosecutions, and six convictions of trafficking offenders, though only two of the convictions actually involved human trafficking offences.

The report adds that corruption among law enforcement authorities and other public officials continued to hamper efforts to bring traffickers to justice.

In certain regions, corrupt police, immigration, or labour officials were complicit, received bribes to overlook or provide lighter penalties for, or obstructed investigations of human trafficking.

http://www.nation.co.ke/News/How+embassy+staff+collude+with+cartels+to+con+Kenyans+/-/1056/1373646/-/item/1/-/82hys5z/-/index.html

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