What you need to know:
- Complainants accuse recruiting firm of holding their documents, including passports and academic certificates
- But First Choice Recruitment and Consultancy has blamed delays on visa processing, denied duping complainants
- Managing Director Ms Judy Chepchirchir says agency has recruited over 7,000 people, with some already working in Poland, Canada and Qatar
A recruitment agency in Eldoret is under scrutiny after more than 200 youths in Uasin Gishu County accused it of promising them World Cup jobs in Qatar that did not materialise.
The agitated youths stormed the county commissioner’s office in Eldoret on Wednesday, waving twigs and asking relevant State agencies to help them get back their hard-earned money.
They claimed the agency collected money from them with the promise of placing them in World Cup-related jobs in the Gulf country. They accused the firm of holding their documents, including passports and academic certificates.
The positions promised included receptionists, cashiers and cleaners in Qatar and other countries. The complainants claimed they parted with a lump sum of between Sh40,000 to Sh200,000.
Took loans and sold property
Some of the youths said they obtained loans and sold property to raise the money, but the jobs were not forthcoming.
The company, First Choice Recruitment and Consultancy, has offices at the Bandaptai building in Eldoret. It has denied the claims and blamed delays on visa processing.
Police are investigating the complaints. People who lost money have started recording statements with the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI).
The recruitment agency is being investigated, Turbo Deputy County Commissioner Mohammed Mwabudzo said on Wednesday.
“We are suspicious about the recruitment process. For instance, if you look at the receipts that were used, they don’t have stamps,” he said.
“I have spoken personally to the accused, who said that they would resolve the issue within two weeks. But from what she said, I have doubts on how she intends to resolve this issue.”
Parted with Sh200,000
Kennedy Kipchumba, one of the complainants, said he gave Sh200,000 to the firm but it failed to secure him employment in Poland as promised.
“My dad, who is a teacher, took loans to raise the money and we have been trying to get it back in vain,” he said.
“First, they asked that we pay a commission fee of Sh200,000 and registration fee of Sh12,000. We were also subjected to medical tests. But they informed us we missed the slot.
“I am just telling everyone to [be careful] concerning these recruitment agencies.”
World Cup dates
In a viral social media video, Ms Judy Chepchirchir, managing director of First Choice Recruitment and Consultancy, defended the firm against the accusations.
She claimed the agency had recruited over 7,000 people, with some already working in Poland, Canada and Qatar.
“The World Cup was shifted to the months of November to December. Those who complain that we have not taken them in the months of August ought to understand the shift,” she said.
“Those who are complaining about delays, it is not us but the other side in processing the visas. For us, we want to deploy those recruited immediately.”
She spoke as Ms Pauline Ambaka, one of the affected youths, lamented that recruits had been psychologically tortured and had waited for more than three months without the promised opportunities materialising.
Ms Ambaka deferred her studies to find a better life in the Middle East.
“Some of us paid in May and others in April. We had been promised that we would secure opportunities by June. When we followed up, we were told to wait until elections were over, but we are tired of waiting, we have been taken in circles,” she said.
Husband and wife
Ms Cheruiyot Yegon, another complainant from Uasin Gishu, said he paid Sh80,000 for himself and his wife but was distraught and convinced that the agency had conned them.
He appealed to the national government and local leaders to intervene and help them resolve the matter.
“Some of us do odd jobs to raise the money because it is hard to secure a job in Kenya. I am really disappointed with the agency,” he said.
Ruth Jepkemboi, another youth, said the agency took their passports, and they were now hoping to get back their money and documents.
“We have waited since May and even paid what they required us to pay, but we hear that there are no jobs, that these jobs have been taken,” she claimed.
“If you look at the receipts, they have not been stamped.”
Human rights activist Agatha Gichuki appealed to young people to be cautious when dealing with recruitment agencies promising them job opportunities, even as she urged investigative agencies to look into the matter.
“The economy is bad, some took loans and sold property and now they risk losing their money. It is time the relevant authorities took up the matter,” she said.
It cases come amid concerns about abuses Kenyans working in Middle East countries face. Harrowing tales of mistreatment have been reported in recent years.
Tough conditions in the Middle East
Ms Gichuki said some Kenyans were enduring tough working conditions in the Middle East and cautioned them to scrutinise recruitment agencies before signing up.
Among the most recent cases was that of Ms Diana Chepkemoi, who returned to Kenya from Saudi Arabia on September 6 after enduring months of mistreatment by her employer and at a holding facility.
She returned to Kenya in poor health. But other Kenyans have died in the kingdom as more continue to suffer abuses and psychological torture.
Ms Chepkemoi, who hails from Bomet County, went to Saudi Arabia for a job as a domestic helper to raise money for her university studies. She has resumed her studies at Meru University of Science and Technology under a work-study programme.
In June, Labour Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui said Kenya was spending Sh70 million to put up safe houses in the Middle East.
He previously said all private recruiting agents had to register with the National Employment Authority to be allowed to export labour.