‘Abuse of workers not behind Kenya maid ban’

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The Saudi Ministry of Labor has rejected reports that Kenya has stopped sending domestic workers to the Kingdom because of the abuse of these workers by their employers.

Ahmed Al-Faheed, Saudi Ministry undersecretary for international affairs, said the Kenyan government stopped sending workers to all Middle East countries because it is investigating its own recruitment agencies for human trafficking.

He said the Kenyan government has asked all recruitment firms in the country to reapply for their licenses.

Al-Faheed denied allegations that the Kenyan government has complained to the Saudi Labor Ministry about the abuse of its workers in the Kingdom. In addition, the Kenyan government did not seek to sign a labor agreement with Saudi Arabia as a condition for lifting the ban, he said.

“According to a statement from the Kenyan government, the decision was taken to stop the export of all Kenyan workers and cancel the endorsement certificates issued to recruiting offices, to all Middle East countries for the time being,” Al-Faheed said.

The Kenyan newspaper Coastweek reported on Monday that the country’s Labor Ministry had suspended all recruitment offices in the country.

Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Labor, Social Security and Services Kazungu Kambi told journalists in Nairobi that the move aims to protect Kenyan migrant workers from exploitation by their foreign employers.

“Cases of mistreatment of Kenyan workers, particularly house help in the Middle East, has been on the rise and continues to attract international and local attention,” Kambi said.

“All private employment agencies will be required to undergo fresh vetting before they are accredited,” he said.

“Working abroad is the main job opportunity for many Kenyans. Both the Middle East and the Gulf countries are still main work destinations for them to earn a good income. Nonetheless, exporting labor to these regions faces many challenges,” he said.

The Kenyan press has recently highlighted the conditions of the country’s workers abroad, most recently a story by the newspaper Standard Digital about a Kenyan family alleging that their daughter has been abused in Saudi Arabia.

Jane Wangari said that her daughter, Virginia Wanja, 24, arrived in the Kingdom in June this year, and has allegedly been locked up.

Wangari said the recruiting agency in Kenya had promised her a job as a computer teacher at a college. However, when Virginia arrived in the country, she was forced to work as a domestic worker for SR419 a month.

“My daughter decided to escape from her employer and went to the nearest police station to seek help so that she could return to her country, but was arrested and jailed for escaping from her employer,” Wangari was quoted as saying.

 
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