Employment agencies bringing Kenyans to work in the Middle East were announced for facilitating what the Central Organization of Trade Union (Cotu) called “modern slavery” on Wednesday.
The government has also been criticized for ignoring the plight of many Kenyans who have shared their suffering while working in the Gulf.
Cotu Secretary General Francis Atwoli said it was high time to shut down all agencies bringing Kenyans to work in the Middle East.
External relations and employment should be discussed between governments and not between agencies “that have no offices or properly listed officials”.
“When you hear the CS or PS of Labor commission the question that Kenyans go either to Saudi Arabia, to Riyadh or to Jeddah, Doha in Qatar or anywhere in the Gulf to look for employment, then that is one thing Use of indirect slavery, which is officially supported by the Kenyan government through the Ministry of Labor, “said Atwoli in the Cotu offices in Nairobi.
The criticism comes barely two weeks after Labor Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui announced that at least 93 Kenyans have died while working in the Middle East in the past three years.
“We have had 93 deaths, particularly from the Gulf region. When these deaths occur, we occasionally have no view of the airport when the bodies arrive,” he told the National Assembly Working Committee.
“We are getting in touch with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior to find out who the victims are and where they came from in the country.”
But Mr Atwoli beat up the agencies, saying they are bribing labor ministry officials to obtain licenses to enslave young women and men.
“If you happen to drive to Jomo Kenyatta Airport (International) in the morning when the airline Qatar Airways arrives, you will see coffins come out of this airline. Coffins of our young women who are mutilated, raped and killed in the Gulf, “he said.
He wondered why Kenya doesn’t take labor migration seriously and never negotiates working conditions for its workers.
“The issue of briefcase agencies under the guise of employment agencies is pure slavery. Sometimes these young men and women end up in the hands of unscrupulous employers who have no address in these countries, ”he said.
The Cotu chief said Kenya would only have the capacity to create jobs for its entire people if it curbs corruption and develops policies to protect its youth from exploitation.
“The government must help the parents whose children are in Saudi Arabia and have no access to justice and find their way out,” he said.
Mr Atwoli then interrupted the press conference to call a Kenyan woman identified as Irene who was stranded with someone in Saudi Arabia and unable to get home despite the unionist sending them a plane ticket through the Kenyan embassy.
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The women had informed Mr. Atwoli that their passports had been removed when they were handed over to their new employer and that not a single cent had been paid for their services.
The two married women are currently being taken in by a Kenyan who works in the embassy, which does not bode well for their husbands, who are helpless in the face of the situation.
To prove the seriousness of the abuse of Kenyans, Cotu called on the government to close its offices in Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
“Employment agencies need to be banned, expelled, suspended, and we forget about it. If we are looking for employment for our youth then let’s look for professional workers, ”he said, adding:
“I appeal to Kenyan parents not to allow their children to go to these places even if you are fed up with them. We can stay poor, but proud of our country, ”he concluded.