How embassy staff collude with cartels to con Kenyans


Ms Fatuma Athuman, 25, after she arrived in Kenya on January 11,2010 from Saudi Arabia with both hands broken by her former employer.

An international human trafficking ring is working with employees of some embassies in Kenya to recruit unsuspecting Kenyans into forced labour in the Middle East.

The cartel lures Kenyans by placing advertisements of well-paying job opportunities in United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Qatar or Kuwait in local newspapers.

Desperate young men and women, some of them university graduates, apply for the jobs, pay travel and contract processing fees only to end up as domestic workers and labourers.

The racketeers alternatively use their local agents to convince jobless youths to sign up for jobs abroad without following the required procedure.

All foreign employers are supposed to inform the Ministries of Labour and Foreign Affairs of vacancies in their countries before seeking applications from Kenyans.

In the recent past, scores of Kenyans have fallen prey to these crooks. Now the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is warning jobseekers to beware of fake employment agencies.

The ministry wants all Kenyans seeking employment abroad to ensure their contracts are scrutinised by the Ministry of Labour and approved before taking up any offers.

It has also established a diaspora desk and wants Kenyans seeking jobs outside the country to register with it.

Foreign Affairs minister Moses Wetang’ula, told Parliament early this month that some employees at the Saudi Arabia embassy were working with unlicensed recruitment agents to traffic Kenyans into forced labour.

“Sir, that problem actually involves a criminal network. We have engaged the Saudi ambassador in Kenya and he has advised us that, in fact, there are some members of staff at the embassy who work in cahoots with those crooked recruitment agents,” Mr Wetang’ula told a shocked Parliament.

The minister was responding to Lamu West MP Fahim Twaha, whose constituent Tashrifa Mohamed Said was found abandoned on the streets of Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, without any documentation.

Mr Wetang’ula said Ms Said was a victim of dubious recruitment agents and the government was making plans to return her home.

Ms Said is just one of the many Kenyans who have in the past two months been subjected to untold suffering in the Middle East after being lured with promises of well-paying jobs that never were.

The minister said most of the victims were from Mombasa, Kilifi, Lamu and Kinoo near Nairobi.

“They recruit young Kenyans, mainly girls, and collect very heavy commissions, take them to Saudi Arabia and dump them there in the hands of equally crooked employers who abuse those young Kenyans.

''We have said that any Kenyans going to work out there should report to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and leave their details there. They should also report at the embassy upon arrival,” he said.

Mr Wetang’ula said the Ministry of Labour was signing agreements with countries in Middle East where Kenyans are seeking employment to protect them.

“The Minister for Labour recently signed an agreement with the government of the United Arab Emirates to regulate the working conditions of our nationals working there.

''Right now, I believe that the minister is in Qatar signing a similar agreement to also regulate the conditions of Kenyans working there,” he said.

And the US in its latest report on human trafficking says the government reported 236 investigations, 10 prosecutions, and six convictions of trafficking offenders, though only two of the convictions actually involved human trafficking offences.

The report adds that corruption among law enforcement authorities and other public officials continued to hamper efforts to bring traffickers to justice.

In certain regions, corrupt police, immigration, or labour officials were complicit, received bribes to overlook or provide lighter penalties for, or obstructed investigations of human trafficking.