Kenyan families seek help to repatriate kin stuck in Saudi Arabia

Ms Tatu Munga breaks down while addressing the press at Haki Africa offices in Mombasa County on February 11, 2022. She asked the government to intervene and help bring her elder sister, Irene Luvuno Munga, back to Kenya from Saudi Arabia where she worked as a domestic helper.

Photo credit: Wachira Mwangi I Nation Media Group

Families whose relatives are stuck in the Middle East have asked the government to help return them home.

In interviews with Nation.Africa in Mombasa and Taita Taveta counties, the families say their relatives are suffering in Gulf countries.

Tatu Munga, whose elder sister Irene Luvuno is in Saudi Arabia, wants her returned home.

She said Ms Luvuno left Kenya last September to go work as a domestic helper.

“My sister travelled to Saudi after failing to find a job here in Kenya. She was okay at first, but things changed when her employer refused to pay her. She started receiving threats, with people stalking her,” said Ms Munga.

She added that her sister is now stranded in Saudi Arabia as agents have not tried to help her.

“She called me one night crying that people with knives and machetes were after her. She escaped and managed to hide. But, the agents have secured all her documents and she has no means of coming back home,” said Ms Munga, noting that the last time they communicated was in January this year.

It is the same case for Mwanajuma Chitsaka’s family. She cannot travel back to Kenya as her passport was confiscated by her employer.

“My sister travelled to Dubai on November 7, 2020 seeking a job opportunity after unsuccessfully asking her not to,” said Salim Fondo, Ms Chitsaka’s brother.

“Her husband forced her to go. We are worried, as one time while she was in Kenya she tried to take her own life.” 

He went on: “She informed us she was subjected to long working hours. We are now required to pay Sh278,347 for her agents to give her back the documents. Without them, she cannot travel back.”

For Said Athman, he fears that his wife Diana Nafula could be facing sexual harassment from her employer.

His wife of three years, left Kenya last October to seek green pastures.

She worked as a house helper in Saudi Arabia.

“At the beginning of her employment, she was treated well. However, things changed when they began denying her communication and subjected her to work in multiple households,” said Mr Athman.

He added that it is now three months since Ms Nafula went to hide in a camp, where she and other migrant workers are staying as they wait for their turn to be repatriated back home.

Other than being exploited, some Kenyan migrant workers in the Gulf never make it back home alive.

The family of Chrispus Mrabu is now urging the government to intervene and help them bring back their relative’s body for burial.

“My brother got sick last August and since then his health has kept deteriorating. We sought help but not even agents wanted to assist us. We are only requesting that his body be brought back to his family so that we can give him a decent burial,” said Esther Bahati, his sister.

Mr Mrabu’s other sister Alice Luganje said their only wish is that his body be brought home for burial.

The 44-year-old, who worked as a truck driver in Saudi Arabia, fell sick and died.

“In December last year, my brother asked us to find a way of bringing him back home. We got worried and called the Kenyan Embassy in Saudi, who checked on him several times. But for him to return home we were told to pay cash for offences he had committed,” said Ms Luganje, adding that they did not know what the offences were.

“We tried to raise Sh280,000, which we were told we had to pay if we wanted him back home. With the support of family and friends, we cleared the fee. But still, my brother was not brought home.

“His body continues to lie in a hospital in Riyadh. We are humbly urging the government to help us bring him home. Please.”

In Taita Taveta, a family was grateful when the body of a 52-year-old woman who died four months ago in police custody in Saudi Arabia, arrived in Nairobi.

Holiness Wawuda died last October.

A relative, Sarah Katini, said the arrival of the body will help the family get closure after months of desperate attempts to have it shipped to Kenya.

The family received the news of her death on October 18 last year through a friend and had to raise money for months to transport her body to her Taita Taveta home for burial.

“It has been difficult for us because we had to raise mortuary and shipping charges because the embassy declined to chip in,” she said. 

Haki Africa Rapid Response Officer Alex Mbela said the Kenyan Embassy in Saudi Arabia should take the demands with the seriousness they deserve.

He added that the organisation has had to help Kenyan migrant workers stuck in Saudi Arabia.