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Domestic workers endure life in hell

Saturday August 18 2012

By MARK AGUTU [email protected]

Kenyan women employed as domestic servants bear the brunt of what can at best be described as life in hell in some Middle Eastern countries.

At the mercy of their employers, women employed in these jobs endure untold hardship and suffering, some almost to the point of losing their lives.

Most of them are unable to communicate with relatives back home after the agents who recruited them confiscate their travel documents and phones, close communication channels and vanish into thin air after getting their cut in the lucrative deals.

“Those working as housegirls are the ones in big trouble. They are never allowed to leave the secured homes and cannot even make calls. They suffer in silence,” said Ms Ann Wangui, who spoke to the Sunday Nation on the phone from Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.

Those who attempt to run away but get arrested end up being locked up in police cells before being repatriated.

“Right now I know of two Kenyans locked up in a police cell here in Riyadh as the immigration department looks into their cases. One is called Wairimu and the other Japheth and they are both from Nairobi,” she said during the telephone interview.

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Ann went to Saudi Arabia four years ago as a domestic worker but managed to secure her release and now operates small businesses.

Two other women who gave their names as Salma and Warda said their problems set in upon reaching what they had hoped would be “a land flowing with milk and honey”.

Salma said that even though the workload is heavy, she would endure it were it not for mistreatment and demeaning attitude exhibited by the rich employers.

Warda, who said she hails from Bamburi in Mombasa, too, lives as a refugee but does odd jobs. “I would really want to come home but where would I get such kind of money?” she said.

The women were traced through contacts provided by Muslim Human Rights Organisation (Muhuri) which has been at the forefront in tracing Kenyans stranded in the Middle East and helping them return home.

The organisation’s records also confirm that domestic workers were the most afflicted by their employers in the Arab countries.

Complaints lodged range from being held incommunicado and sexual abuse to physical assault, deprivation of food, overwork and abusive language.