Kenya has asked the United Arab Emirates for a review of immigration rules after various businesspeople complained of delays or refusal of visas to the Gulf nation, despite having the largest consular centre in Africa.
Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed on Thursday met with Emirati State Minister for International Cooperation Reem Ebrahim Al-Hashimy in Abu Dhabi where the two officials signed an MoU to remove visa requirements for diplomatic passport holders as well as grant them multiple entries.
This deal, she said, will mean that diplomats from both countries can make quick arrangements for meetings “to nurture our bilateral relations further.”
But the businesspeople from Kenya still do not have that luxury.
“Of late we have received complaints from Kenyan businessmen whose visa applications have either been denied or delayed.
“I hope an amicable solution to this challenge is reached during this meeting,” she said at the opening of the 2nd Joint Commission for Cooperation (JCC) in Abu Dhabi.
With many Kenyans travelling to Dubai, the largest emirate in the UAE, for business or professional work, the gulf nation established a visa centre in Nairobi to cater for this demand.
It is estimated that about 40,000 of them live in the UAE with thousands of others making daily travels to the country meaning that they require multiple entry visas.
However, some of them are rejected or take too long to be processed, according to the CS. Normally, depending on the category, a visa may take up to seven days to mature although some of them are collected at the port of entry in the UAE.
This type of imbalance is among the issues the JCC was supposed to address.
First created in 2010, the Kenya-UAE JCC is a forum of diplomats from both sides which is meant to address issues that arise between the two countries.
But the in seven years, the major issue has often been immigration with Kenya banning domestic labour export to the UAE in 2012 alongside other Middle East countries following complaints of mistreatment.
The Cabinet Secretary admitted that there still remains a high number of Kenyan domestic workers in the UAE, something which still presents “challenges, including work-related disputes.”
“These disputes often attracts negative attention from both local and international media thereby denting the image of our governments. However, I am happy to note that during this, JCC we have had the opportunity to address some of the emerging issues, paving way for conclusion of the labour agreement,” she said.
For a start, Kenya will post a Labour Attaché to its Embassy in Abu Dhabi to help deal with such issues.
In 2015, Kenya and the UAE announced a deal of 100,000 jobs for Kenyans although the Ministry insisted it would set up a committee to vet applicants as part of requirements in the agreement.
Later, an official from the UAE said Kenya would benefit from the 10,000 initial offers in various sectors of the country’s economy.
The government-to-government deal was supposed to eliminate rogue recruitment companies and ensure Kenyans only work for jobs they have applied for, besides training successful applicants on basic survival skills once in the UAE.
But there have been no figures yet on how many Kenyans were hired this way.