Saudi envoy in Nairobi Ghorm Said Malhan said his country was working closely with Kenyan authorities to eliminate problems that have been experienced in the past.
“Now we make sure in the Saudi embassy we do not deal with any agency unless they are registered with Kenyan authorities like the Ministry of Labour,” he told Capital FM News in an interview.
Malhan who is also a permanent representative to UNEP and UN Habitat said recent reports of Kenyans being mistreated in Saudi Arabia have been blown out of proportion adding that the two nations have enjoyed historical cordial ties.
“We appreciate what these foreign workers have done for us to develop our country for the past 30-40 years. We are not denying that there could be a case of a housemaid being mistreated. This can happen anywhere in the world. When you have one or two cases, it cannot be used as a blanket condemnation,” the ambassador said.
Last week, Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Ministry released a statement arguing that the cases of abuse in Saudi Arabia had been exaggerated.
Foreign Affairs PS Thuita Mwangi said the number of Kenyan workers seeking employment in Saudi Arabia had been on a meteoric rise in recent months.
“There are over 80,000 skilled and semi-skilled Kenyans working in the Middle East. Forty thousand of these are based in Saudi Arabia. Within the last three months alone, the Saudi government has processed over 8,000 work permits for Kenyans, an escalation compared to the previous average of 17,000 work permits per annum,” Mwangi said.
He said that majority of complaints by Kenyans workers had been amicably resolved indicating there was no severity in the magnitude of the problem.
“Statistics from our Embassy in Riyadh reveal that within a span of two years, from 2010 to 2011, 492 cases of distressed Kenyans were received, out of which 400 were successfully resolved and the affected Kenyans returned home.”
He also rooted for the use of registered agencies when seeking employment abroad. There are 50 recruitment agencies mainly in Nairobi and Mombasa and one in Kikuyu.
In his interview with Capital FM News, the Saudi envoy emphasised that Kenya and Saudi Arabia have a long history of bilateral relations. “Since 1975 we have assisted in funding several projects in Kenya. Financial assistance goes towards development of infrastructure, water supply, irrigation and agriculture through the Saudi Development Fund.”
Trade however remains heavily tilted in favour of Saudi Arabia but efforts are being made to improve the level of imports from Kenya. “Last year, we had two delegations from Kenya to improve exports of tea from Kenya.”
Saudi Arabian entrepreneurs have also shown interest in Kenya’s tourism sector, the hotel industry and banking.
“Now there is a talk between the people and there (Saudi Arabia) to see what we can do in the area of livestock. Hopefully we will send a delegation from here to meet their partners in Riyadh to see how we can import livestock from here.”