No reprieve yet for domestic workers in the Middle East

By K24Tv Team On Tue, 30 Jul, 2019 00:00 | 3 mins read
Qatar in United Arab Emirates. Victims of human trafficking have been camping at the Kenyan Embassy in the city state. Photo/FILE
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    As unemployment continues to be a big threat in the country, more young people opt to seek available opportunities outside the country, especially to the Arab nations.

    “Most people are mistreated when they go out of the country to become domestic workers. The said employers or agents then start claiming that they are lazy or just not ready for work. Seriously, how does someone take a flight leaving their families in order to provide for them, end up being called lazy?

    According to the immigration rules, there should be a Sh1.5million assuring fee paid by the travel agents so that in case of anything, it covers their people’s return ticket. Sadly, most people get stranded on the other side and the agents won’t do anything about it,” adds Shipeta.

Jasmine Atieno @sparkleMine

As unemployment continues to be a big threat in the country, more young people opt to seek available opportunities outside the country, especially to the Arab nations.

This, though, has turned out to be another menace, as reports stream in of illegal human trafficking and mistreatment of Kenyan labourers outside the country.

Two women, Lucy Juma and Kwekwe Mazera, from Mombasa on Friday stormed Haki Africa Mombasa offices in tears over alleged mistreatment of relatives at the Embassy of Kenya in Qatar. The relatives had allegedly run away from their employers.

The notification indicated that Riziki Juma, Kadiwa Mazera and Catherine Otieno are neither fed nor given a place to sleep, forcing them to spend nights on the floor, every night for over two weeks.

“My daughter left me with her three children and headed to Qatar to work as a house help, but when she got their things were not as she was promised. She was working for 48 hours without rest and being mistreated badly by her employers.

When she got a chance to escape, she ran to the embassy for help. They are only given a little food after three days or so and forced to sleep on the floor,” says Mama Juma.

According to Haki Africa, the humanitarian organisation in Mombasa, which has been fighting to rescue victims of human trafficking, there are over 200 Kenyans currently stuck at the embassy in Qatar after fleeing harsh working conditions and mistreatment. 

Strict policy

“The truth is that people actually know what they might meet out there. They have heard stories and are aware that things might go either way. But due to poverty and lack of employment opportunities in Kenya, most of them take it anyway.

So when they reach out there things hit them as they do and sadly they just have to choose to go home alive instead of becoming slaves,” says Haki Africa, rapid response officer, Mathias Shipeta. 

“Most people are mistreated when they go out of the country to become domestic workers. The said employers or agents then start claiming that they are lazy or just not ready for work. Seriously, how does someone take a flight leaving their families in order to provide for them, end up being called lazy?

Clearly, they know exactly why they went there for, and if they have to run for their lives it is because the work is not what it was expected to be,” said Salma Hemed, Director Haki Africa 

One reason employees run away from their employers include breach of contracts. There are even cases of young women being turned into sex slaves.

“When my sister left the country her contract mentioned that she would be working during the day. But as it is, she was being forced to work days and nights. Forty-eight hours nonstop and sometimes without food. She would have even died there if she did not run for her life,” says Kwekwe.

The increase in travel agents in the country has also contributed to the increase in human trafficking.

Despite the availability of policies and guidelines to protect immigrant workers, most agents don’t comply with these rules. Some even forge travel documents and medical reports, causing problems for immigrants.

“There is a need for stricter government policy. Some of these agents are not even real agents, just brokers who don’t comply with the immigration rules.

According to the immigration rules, there should be a Sh1.5million assuring fee paid by the travel agents so that in case of anything, it covers their people’s return ticket. Sadly, most people get stranded on the other side and the agents won’t do anything about it,” adds Shipeta.

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