Kenyan job seekers travelling to Saudi Arabia may soon have to seek clearance from government before taking up jobs.The Kenya government has held inter-ministerial meetings to establish a framework that would protect Kenyans seeking employment in the oil producing state.
The director of the Middle East Office at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mr Ken Vitisia said among the conditions in the agreement is a proposal for a contract between the Saudi Arabia government and the employee before travel. “Most of the contracts being signed currently are between agents and the employee and later the agent draws another between the agency and the employer,” Mr Vitisia explained.
The director further hinted that the Ministry of Foreign affairs was working with the Ministry of Labour to streamline agencies that act as go-betweens to jobs in Saudi Arabia. “Some of these agencies promise jobs as salesmen, nurses only for some of the Kenyans to end up working as domestic maids or as prostitutes,” he said.
Cases of mistreatment have variously been reported by Kenyans who work in Kuwait and Qatar. Mr Vitisia however clarified that Kenya and Saudi enjoyed a cordial relationship.
According to Mr Vitisia, people seeking jobs as domestic servants, teachers and nurses would be compelled to provide a contract that will be scrutinized by legal officers from both the Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Foreign affairs. The countersigned contract will be sent to Saudi Arabia where the Kenyan embassy in Riyadh will keep a copy and later release it alongside an air ticket from the employer.
Among the demands in the legal document being drawn up, to be signed by the two governments, is a provision for an orientation programme for the employee and the employer on culture to prevent mistreatment. The International Labor Organization has cited Saudi Arabia for failing to adhere to conventions on equal pay, for continuing gender segregation in the work place, and for limiting vocational programmes for women.
Mr Vitisia said most Kenyans were lured with lucrative jobs but ended up being sexually abused or employed as house helps. About 3,000 Kenyan women were currently in Saudi Arabia. “There is a wing in our Kenyan embassy in Saudi Arabia that is holding some girls who have escaped mistreatment and are awaiting deportation,” he added.
The agreement is expected to be discussed next month between Kenyan and Saudi Arabian foreign affairs officials early next month.