COMMITTEE ON LABOUR ENGAGES CS, PS LABOUR ON ABUSE OF KENYANS IN THE MIDDLE EAST, SLAMS FOREIGN AFFAIRS FOR UNDERMINING THE ISSUES AT HAND
The Departmental Committee on Labour and Social welfare chaired by Mwea Member of Parliament Hon Josephat Kabinga Wachira, today met with the Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Labour; Simon Chelugui, and the Principal Secretary in the State Department for Labour; Peter Tum, to deliberate on the rising cases of abuse of immigrant Kenyan workers in the Middle East, UAE, and other foreign countries.
The Committee sought to know, among other points of concern: if the government has any pre-departure training programme for Kenyan migrant workers, the existence of functional Regulations guiding registration of employment agencies, any measures that have so far been initiated by the ministry to protect migrant workers from exploitation, if there is any functional and updated database of employment opportunities available for Kenyans in the middle east and other foreign destinations, and if the Ministry has a complete database on the number of Kenyans working in the diaspora including destination countries and category of employment.
In seeking clarity on the efforts put in place to help avert the situation, the Chairperson acknowledged the recurrent cases reported of Kenyans suffering in the hands of foreigners.
“ There is a clear indication that our embassies out there are not helping our people, even in cases of distress calls, the embassies have barely made efforts to assist the victims, a very unfortunate way to handle such matters “ posed Hon Kabinga. In response, the Cabinet Secretary, apprised the committee on the total number of Kenyans in the Middle East and UAE, stating that a majority of Kenyan immigrant workers in the said regions went there legally and are in legitimate employment, except for the few cases of Kenyans who go there illegally and end up in the hands of the wrong people.
“We cannot deviate from the fact that some Kenyans went to these countries without following the proper channels, they avoided every legal process in Kenya and went there the wrong way, only to start blaming the government later when they get in trouble, “said CS Chelugui. This response raised concerns from the legislators who insisted that regardless of how a Kenyan goes abroad, it is the duty of the government to protect its citizens, especially in the current prevailing circumstances of abuse.
He also told the Committee that some agencies have been committing an illegality of charging fees from Kenyans seeking foreign employment, which most often than not, are too expensive, hence the resolution by some people to follow alternative illegal means of travelling abroad. According to the Principal Secretary Peter Tum, it is the duty of the employer to settle the immigration and travel costs of a foreign employee, and not the job seeker’s.
The Hon Kabinga- led committee had also invited the Ministry of Foreign affairs to today’s meeting, but neither the Cabinet Secretary nor Principal Secretary attended the meeting, as only Director General of Immigration in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador was present. This prompted legislators to condemn the ministry of foreign affairs for taking the issue too lightly, and demanded that the CS and PS should appear before the committee to state their stand on the matter.
The Ministry of Labour says that it is in the process of reviewing the existing regulations to accommodate the changing demographics, and also build the capacity of existing agencies on the same. These, with guidance from the committee, shall be done in consideration and alignment with the rules and regulations of the target destination countries.
31st August, 2021