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End pain of Kenyans working in the Gulf



A lot has been said and written about the suffering of Kenyan workers in the Middle East, especially in Saudi Arabia, but the problem persists.

While some have been rescued from what has been described as slave-like labour and repatriated, others have returned home in coffins. These Kenyans, whose only sin is seeking greener pastures in the Gulf region, continue to be mistreated by callous employers.

While it is true that these are individual contracts between employers and the workers through recruiting agencies, this is a matter the government cannot just ignore.

 This is why the plan to establish safe houses at a cost of nearly Sh380 million has been enthusiastically received. Indeed, Kenyans expect the diplomats in those countries to do more to protect their fellow citizens.

The greatest irony is that as the victims of torture and other inhumane treatment return home, others will be going in the opposite direction and, in most cases, directly into the same mess their compatriots will have been extricated from. The pangs of joblessness back home drive them into the jaws of desperation and death.

The revelation that Kenyans are treated worse than their colleagues from Uganda and other East African countries is food for thought. Especially so, is the confirmation that some foreign employers are aware that other governments will not tolerate the mistreatment of their citizens, while Kenyans are easy targets for abuse. The cavalier attitude by Kenyan officials borders on criminal neglect.

There is a need to register and closely monitor recruitment agencies and encourage Kenyans to network while overseas and regularly call on the diplomats in the countries where they work.

Besides the safe houses, there are other interventions that can confirm that the government cares about the plight of its citizens overseas. The government should fulfill its promise to work with others to streamline this lucrative source of employment that generates a lot of revenue for the country.

In the first eight months of this year, a princely Sh22.65 billion was received in remittances from the 100,000 Kenyan workers in Saudi Arabia alone. The pain and agony of the workers and their families must be curbed. 

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