Taita family pleads for help to repatriate kin stuck in Saudi Arabia

Miriam Samba who started sending desperate messages on WhatsApp, saying she was not being paid and her employer was not giving her food and time to rest.

Photo credit: Lucy Mkanyika I Nation

When Miriam Samba travelled to Saudi Arabia for work last April, her family in Mwatunge village, Taita Taveta County, thought she would help them improve their lives. 

They hoped Ms Samba’s earnings would help her three children get better education and food. 

But that did not materialise. 

The 26-year-old domestic worker now wants to come back home, claiming mistreatment and her employer’s failure to pay her. 

An agent in Saudi Arabia had confiscated her passport and phone to ensure that she could not come back home or seek help, said her grandmother Nancy Wawuda. 

She said Ms Samba is being held in Saudi Arabia against her will. 

"The last time she communicated was through a neighbour, who told me she was being harassed by the agent. She is being held hostage at a holding centre in deplorable conditions with no food and water," Ms Wawuda said. 

After arriving in the capital Riyadh, Ms Samba started sending desperate messages on WhatsApp, saying she was not being paid and her employer was not giving her food and time to rest. 

Ms Wawuda now regrets allowing her go to the kingdom.  

"She said she was sick and no one was taking her to the hospital. She was forced to work even while unwell,” she said. 

“The heat there could have affected her because she complained they were not being given water to drink. It was better if she had remained here."
Ms Samba told her family she wanted to return to her children after she was sent back to the agency that recruited her. 

According to a WhatsApp voice note sent by Ms Samba, she had bought an air ticket but her agency had refused to let her travel back to Kenya. 

"I am under surveillance and my Kenyan agent has ordered her counterparts here to take my phone from me. Please tell my mother to help me because my life is in danger," she said in the voice note. 

Ms Wawuda said it had been difficult communicating with Ms Samba since she sent the WhatsApp voice note on September 12. 

"I am in distress because I don't know where to start. I am praying that she comes back home safely because I don't know what to do," she said. 

A neighbour, Japhet Righa, claimed a Nairobi-based employment agent who had facilitated Ms Samba’s travel to the Middle East had ordered her partners in Saudi Arabia to hold her hostage and confiscate her phone. 

He said they received a voice note recorded by Ms Samba claiming that her phone had been seized by her Saudi Arabia agent to prevent her from seeking help. 

"She told us not to give the phone contact to anyone but she was pleading that we help her to get out of that place," he said. 

Mr Righa said Ms Samba’s Kenyan employment agents are unavailable by phone and have gone underground. 

"Sometimes their phones are switched off and when they become available they don't pick up our calls. We are now in a dilemma and we don't know what to do," he said. 

To help the family, Mr Righa plans to travel with Ms Wawuda to Nairobi to trace the agent's offices on Moi Avenue. 

They will also visit the Saudi Arabian Embassy and the Ministry of Labour offices in Nairobi to seek help from the government. 

"We are appealing to our government and leaders to help this family to bring her home for treatment before it is too late. We want to see our sister back alive," he said.