The government says it will send officials to Beirut to assess reports of mistreatment of Kenyan women who seek help at the consulate in Lebanon.
Kenya’s Ambassador to Kuwait, Halima Mohamud, said her Mission was aware of reported mistreatment of Kenyan women who visited the outpost in Beirut seeking much-needed assistance.
“We are planning to travel to Lebanon for a fact-finding mission in the first week of August, because our airspace is currently closed,” she told the Nation on Tuesday.
Ms Mohamud was responding to a CNN story published this week that detailed accusations from a number of Kenyan women who said the Kenyan Honorary Consul in Beirut -- Sayed Chalouhi -- physically and verbally assaulted them, as well as overcharging fees.
They also accuse the Lebanese national and his assistant, Kassem Jaber, of pressuring them to pursue sex work in order to come up with money for repatriation fees.
The Kenyan Embassy in Kuwait is also accredited to Lebanon. But due to distance, the Kenyan government appointed the Lebanese Honorary Consul to handle Kenyan affairs in Lebanon.
Technically, he is the official representative of Kenya in Beirut even though is not Kenyan.
This week, however, CNN reported that women who visited his office were beaten up for asking questions.
“They started pushing me and beating me and I also pushed them," one woman only identified as Gloria said.
CNN said it compiled the details of Gloria's alleged assault from interviews with her, testimony from a source with knowledge of the consulate, voice memos she sent shortly after as well as an account from a family member of the incident in November 2019.
She was among several undocumented migrant workers who accused Kenya’s Honorary Consul in Lebanon and his assistant of mistreating them.
Another domestic worker named Linda claimed the Honorary Consul had asked them to do sex work, as well as claiming she had been conned of her money.
Both the Honorary Consul and his assistant have denied any wrongdoing.
Ms Mohamud, while not directly addressing the allegations made, told the Nation that both her Mission and the consulate “work tirelessly for the welfare of Kenyans.”
“The honorary consul diligently attends to a variety of consular matters related to Kenyans in Beirut,” she said in a similar response she sent to CNN.
“In dealing with labour disputes, the Embassy and the consulate are guided by the national diaspora policies as well as labour laws applicable in the host country.”
Some 1,000 Kenyans work in Lebanon, mostly as domestic workers. Some are undocumented migrants, but most work in a bonded system known locally as Kafala.
It requires all unskilled labourers to have local sponsors who must vouch for their visa and employment status. Sometimes employers take away passports, leaving no chance of fleeing mistreatment.