The Kenyan embassy is to blame for delays in handling cases of workers subjected to harsh working conditions in Saudi Arabia, a parliamentary committee heard at the weekend.
Recruitment agents told the committee on defence and foreign relations at the Mombasa Municipal Council Hall of laxity by embassy officials in responding to workers’ grievances.
Committee chairman Aden Keynan said they were at the Coast on a fact-finding mission to get information from the agents and the victims.
“We are investigating these allegations to have a lasting solution and maintain better diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia,” he said.
The managing director of Omfa Ltd, Mr Farjallah Ahmed, blamed the poor working conditions on bogus foreign recruitment agencies not vetted by the Labour ministry and the Immigration Department.
“These recruitment agents come into the country with tourist visas, they advertise the jobs and start the recruitment in hotels. When we alert relevant government departments, they are always reluctant to act,” Mr Ahmed said.
He said women were in particular promised well paying employment abroad and left the country without enough information about the agent and their contracts.
“When in Saudi Arabia, the agents confiscate their documents and in case of a problem they do not know where to locate them. We have raised these issues with the government but not much is done,” he said.
Mr Ahmed claimed that the Arab Chamber of Commerce that dealt with the plight of workers had not addressed their issues for the last 10 years and were only interested in generating money from agents.
Want to return home
He also blamed some of the recruited Kenyans who demand to returned home after two weeks of arrival in the foreign country.
“They become homesick and want to go back home. They forget that it costs about Sh260,000 to process travelling documents and flight charges,” he said.
Ms Fatuma Abdalla told the committee she was threatened by her employer with death after communicating to the agent on breach of contract.
“I was told I would work in an office but was employed as a domestic worker. My employer’s wife beat me always until one time I nose-bled,” she said amid tears.
“Later, my employer claimed he would take me to jail or return me to Kenya as a corpse. “I thank God after lot of persuasion, I returned home,” she added.
Mr Aden ordered the agents to furnish the committee with their registration documents and licences as proof of their legality.