COMMITTEE ON DIASPORA AFFAIRS ENGAGES RECRUITMENT AGENCIES TO ADDRESS MIGRANT WORKERS' ISSUES
The National Assembly Committee on Diaspora and Migrant Affairs chaired by Hon. Lydia Haika (Taveta County) met representatives from the Association of Skilled Migrant Agencies of Kenya (ASMAK) and the Kenya Private Employment Agencies (KAPEA) to discuss the growing concerns surrounding migrant worker issues and the unethical conduct of private recruitment agencies in the recruitment of labor migrants and the placement of students abroad.
During the meeting, Committee Members raised concerns over key areas, including the recruitment process used by private recruitment agencies for all categories of labor migrants, the contractual obligations of the agencies to the migrant workers, the responsibilities of recruitment agencies in pre-departure training and certification processes, the process of tracking and tracing labor migrants, and the availability of data per agency.
Representatives from ASMAK and KAPEA highlighted the challenges faced by migrant workers due to inadequate consulate services in foreign countries, insufficient labor attaches especially in the Middle East, delays in fulfilling visa requirements, and losing market share to countries like Ethiopia and Uganda.
They also expressed concerns about migrant workers who had gone through unregistered agencies and faced difficulties in tracking down the agencies responsible for their recruitment. Some workers had even skipped necessary training and were given different job descriptions upon arrival in Saudi Arabia.
To address these concerns and prevent the exploitation of migrant workers, it was suggested that all agencies should be registered under the National Employment Authority (NEA) and accredited agencies should be members of an association, making it easier to monitor agencies that fail to adhere to ethical recruitment practices.
The meeting also discussed the need to improve training standards for skilled, semi-skilled, and unskilled workers, ensuring that all training institutions meet the prescribed standards before continuing their operations.
The Vice Chairperson of the Committee Hon. Simon King’ara acknowledged the importance of Diaspora remittances as a crucial source of revenue for the country. "We should expand to new international markets that will generate revenue for the Country and create employment but we need to streamline the recruitment process", he added.
Regarding access to Consulate services in the Middle East, representatives from the Association of Skilled Migrant Agencies of Kenya (ASMAK) highlighted the need to appoint at least two labor attachés in Saudi Arabia, one of whom must be female, employing labor assistants who understand Arabic to liaise with government ministries, establishing safety houses for female workers, assigning welfare officers to handle distressing issues, and identifying diaspora members to report to labor attachés in various towns.
Members acknowledged the need for an urgent review of the Bilateral Labor Agreements (BLA) and the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Kenya and Saudi Arabia.
Furthermore, they called on the Ministry of Labour and National Employment Authority to conduct public education campaigns to inform job seekers about the importance of engaging licensed agencies, and efforts be made to explore employment opportunities in countries beyond the Middle East, given Kenya's skilled and respected workforce.