End Modern Day Slavery

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Exodus To Slavery – Lets end this exodus to modern day slavery

The Kenya Government has received an unprecedented number of complaints about sexual harassment, torture and forced labour from its citizens in Saudi Arabia and other middle east countries. Unscrupulous and unregistered agents have been luring and duping poor Kenyans with promises of non-existent and supposedly “well paying jobs” but on arrival, they are forced to work as domestic workers. When they ask to be taken back home, the agents demand money. Though some have made it in the promised land, the majority have been tortured, victimised, sexually harassed and some have died in mysterious circumstances.

Human Rights Violations

The victims begin to regret the decision immediately they set foot abroad. Their hosts waste no time in revealing the servitude they will have to endure, and that only after the recruits sign contracts with agents in Arabic and their travel documents are confiscated to ensure those disgruntled with the menial jobs have little or no option of heading back home immediately. Life soon takes a dreary routine characterised by poor pay, overwork, starvation and sexual harassment. Others suffer physical abuse and religious discrimination in the hands of their employers. With no money to buy air tickets home and no relatives, friends or government officials to seek help from, the slaves toil on, regretting with each passing day their decision to take the flight to servitude.

Kafala system and its abuses

For Subira Bakari, 26, who had been promised a well-paying job as a house-help, the shock came in the form of a cleaning job in a three-storey flat owned by her employer. Her job entailed cleaning the scores of residential houses in the block and cooking for her employer’s family of six. She was not allowed to eat the food she prepared for her masters and had a separate kitchen where she cooked her own.The single mother of one was among the many Kenyans caught up in the Middle East's "modern-day slavery", where domestic workers face serious human rights abuses and death — thanks to the continent’s contract labour policy that puts migrant workers into servitude.

Slavery is woven into the psyche of the Gulf states. The barbaric practice of owning a fellow human being still exists in the form of the internationally condemned kafala sponsorship system. By tying the residency status of migrant workers to their employers, the system grants the employers total control, amounting to ownership. kafala system under which the visa and residency status of migrant workers are dependent on the sponsorship of a specific employer, who can stop them from leaving the country or switching jobs. Under the scheme employers confiscate the passports, money and mobile phones of new arrivals. A “sub-contracting” scheme is also in operation, with employers selling workers on. This Dickensian system, which facilitates the abuse suffered by migrant workers, particularly domestic staff, needs to be banned as a matter of urgency; labour laws protecting migrant workers must be introduced and enforced, and full access to consulate support made available.

The Victims

Nobody really knows how Eunice Wanjiku, 38, died three years before her body was discovered at a Saudi Arabian mortuary. For more than 1,000 days, morgue authorities tagged Wanjiku’s body as “unidentified”, and it was only after the government threatened to dispose of the cadaver that her Kenyan family got to know about the death of their daughter. The single mother of one was among the many Kenyans caught up in the Middle East's "modern-day slavery", where domestic workers face serious human rights abuses and death — thanks to the continent’s contract labour policy that puts migrant workers into servitude

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS

It is time to stop the exodus of naïve and unsuspecting teenagers to the Middle East with the promise of a better life and better pay.

In 2014 a blanket ban on the exportation of all types of labour was imposed following increased cases of Kenyan workers being mistreated in the Middle East.

The ban was lifted early this year enabling Kenyans with skills in accounting, hotel management and secretarial to work in the Gulf States.

The government has introduced stringent measures aimed at protecting Kenyans who work abroad. The Ministry of East African Community, Labour and Social protection has gazetted rules that now require all agencies involved in recruiting employees to be registered. The agencies will be undergoing continuous surveillance by the government. The new regulations are as a result of Security Laws of 2014. The first batch of 19 agencies have already met the criteria set and have been registered. Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie said the ministry is in the process of signing bilateral labour agreements with countries frequented by Kenyan migrant workers. Kenyans who have been recruited to work in foreign countries especially in the Middle East have suffered most of them living like slaves and others have ended up dying in unclear circumstances. “We will also post labour attachés to these countries to help monitor how our migrant workers fair abroad.  Those doing illegal recruitment will face heavy sanctions,” she said. She said all agencies will be vetted to weed out the ones that do not adhere to a new code of conduct. The rules were gazetted on June 17, 2016. The new rules require an agency to be a registered company with at least one director being a Kenyan. It must have a minimum of 5 million in share capital and execute a guarantee of Sh1.5 million.

REPATRIATE EMPLOYEE BACK HOME

The guarantee will be used to repatriate a Kenyan employee back home including paying their wages in the event of default by the agency or the employer. An agency recruiting Kenyans for employment in a foreign country will have to inform the prospective employees about visa fees, airfare and medical examinations. “Provided that reasonable administrative costs may not be charged by the agent in respect of trade test, occupational test and the administrative fees shall not exceed the job seekers proposed one month’s salary,” reads the gazetted rules. All agencies will have to notify the government of all job and visa opportunities available to Kenyans. “The rise in cases of abuse of Kenyans working abroad has led to questions regarding how effective these agencies are in processing the migration of the workers and preparing them to meet the employment expectations and culture change in the destination country,” said Mrs Kandie. She said the government will be arranging Bilateral Labour Agreements with the destinations countries particularly in the Middle East. In the code of conduct, agencies are barred from engaging in child labour, trafficking in persons or forced labour tendencies. The agencies will also be charged with the safety of all the people they recruit.

In 2014 a blanket ban on the exportation of all types of labour was imposed following increased cases of Kenyan workers being mistreated in the Middle East.

The ban was lifted early this year enabling Kenyans with skills in accounting, hotel management and secretarial to work in the Gulf States.

Our Campaign

We will have an awareness and information outreach. We will work in conjunction with the Government and partners to combat slave labour and the impunity which underlies it. The campaign will raise public awareness and put the issue in the limelight. Using our website, posters, a short film, radio spots will be developed and disseminated country wide.