The ordeal of Kenyans in Arab ‘slave markets’
Posted Saturday, August 18 2012 at 23:30
But there are more hurdles; a recruit’s passport is surrendered to authorities at the airport of entry. In lieu of the passport, the recruit is issued with a local ID.
For one to leave, the employer has to write a letter to the recruiting agency that will in turn write to the government who may then issue an exit visa and return the passport to the bearer.
A Kenyan would be arrested and taken to the deportation centre, from which the Kenyan embassy is contacted and asked to make travel arrangements.
Ms Kamau, who has just returned from the area on a fact-finding mission, said a recruit who is rejected by her employer on arrival is almost always in trouble.
“Remember that there was $3,000 that was paid for that person’s air fare and other expenses. According to the recruiting agencies in those countries, that money has to be recovered and the only way that can happen is for them to hold you in a place called a maktaba, awaiting a suitable employer,” Ms Kamau said. “It looks like a slave market.”
Ms Kamau says that the cases they have been handling prompted the government to ban recruitment as they work out a plan with the interested countries on how workers can get better deals.
Currently, all legitimate Kenyan agents are required to sign a bond with the Ministry of Labour, which also verifies documents and contracts before a recruit can be allowed to leave the country.
Copies of the documents are then taken to the ministry of Foreign Affairs, which has begun keeping a database of all Kenyans travelling for jobs abroad.
“We would encourage people to register with us or the nearest embassy or consulate. If they are in a country where there is no Kenyan embassy or consulate, they should register with the nearest British embassy or consulate. Every passport holder outside the country should do that,” Ms Kamau said.
“Many people who haven’t done that end up calling home instead of calling the embassy for help if they are in trouble.”
Mwanaisha told the Sunday Nation that the holding and detention centres are literally slave markets where recruits are traded as though they were commodities.
“The conditions are poor, and there is little food. It’s just horrible. I left a job here in Kenya and wasted eight months of my life. Not only that, I nearly died. I’d never go back. I’d never recommend it for anyone. I’d rather make Sh100 a day in my country.”