The eleventh-hour rescue of Diana Chepkemoi from her employer’s “torture chambers” thousands of kilometres away was, indeed, miraculous. Diana emotionally narrated her suffering and said many young Kenyans in Saudi Arabia are mentally and physically tortured.
The Ministry of Labour says 35,000 Kenyans are looking for jobs in the Middle East—including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Qatar. This high number of jobseekers yearning to work abroad is a result of lack of jobs in Kenya. The ministry says 1.2 million Kenyans join the labour market every year with just 800, 000 getting jobs. Covid-19 exacerbated the situation as many people were laid off during the pandemic are yet to be re-employed. Covid-19 also paralysed many companies.
There are only 65 agencies authorised to place Kenyans on jobs abroad, says the ministry. But it seems rogue agents sell Kenyans into ‘slavery’ in the Gulf. In 2014, the government banned export of labour but lifted the ban in September 2016. Domestic and other low-skilled workers were then allowed to work in countries that signed bilateral agreements.
Not a bad idea
Working outside the country is not a bad idea if all procedures are followed strictly. According to Central Bank of Kenya, Kenyans working abroad remitted Sh350 billion in 2020 and Sh421 billion in 2021. That includes those in the US and UK.
Tales of Kenyans suffering in Gulf countries is no longer a surprise. Many have been returned in a coffin as others disappeared without a trace. Nearly 100 have been killed with more than 1,000 others crying for help. Strict measures should be put in place to ensure all Kenyans abroad are safe. The government must improve the economy to create jobs.
Mr Korir is a communication and journalism student at Kenya Methodist University (KeMU). [email protected].