NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 29 – Labour Cabinet Secretary Kazungu Kambi has revoked the licenses of private recruitment firms sending workers to the Middle East.
Kambi who made the announcement on Monday said the recruitment agencies would be required to re-apply for their licenses and undergo vetting in order to weed out unscrupulous middlemen who left the Kenyans they sent to the Middle East to suffer.
He told a news conference his decision was prompted by the recently reported claims of Kenyans labourers subjected to inhumane conditions once they arrived in the Middle East.
“Cases of mistreatment of Kenyan workers particularly house helps in the Middle East have been on the rise and continues to attract international and local attention,” he pointed out.
“The vulnerability of migrant workers to exploitation and abuse in the workplace is further compounded by the fact that many of them fear seeking redress from authorities. This is more so if their status in the country is irregular.”
He has therefore also banned the export of workers to the Middle East, “until further notice.”
What remains a challenge, Kazungu said is, “information on migrant’s workers who do not have proper documentation which make it difficult for the Government to offer them assistance.”
There are over 80,000 Kenyan workers in the Gulf region and the Middle East according to the Labour Cabinet Secretary, who said the number continues to increase.
“Migrant workers in such situations remain highly vulnerable hence the need for the Government to put in place appropriate measures to protect them.”
Kambi’s ban followed an announcement by Foreign Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed that the United Arab Emirates would soon be opening their biggest consulate in the world in Kenya.
A move that would enable them, recruit Kenyan labourers directly and lock out “those that take labourers outside and leave them there at the mercy of all the elements that are out there,” she said.
In June 2012, the government suspended the export of domestic workers to the UAE, pending the vetting of recruitment agencies, in response to complaints of cruelty.
“The Government has noted with concern, the increasing number of Kenyan citizens who have sought employment in the Middle East as domestic workers (Housekeepers/maids) and ended up in distress,” Political and Diplomatic Secretary, at the time, Patrick Wamoto said.
There are an estimated 40,000 Kenyans living and working in the UAE and there is a great demand still, Mohamed said, for Kenyan labourers: “We are exporting a lot of labour to the UAE including the request we have from Australia from Qatar for an additional one thousand workers.”