Eighty-nine Kenyans, most of them domestic workers, have died in the past two years in Saudi Arabia, where authorities have reported the cause of death as “cardiac arrest”.
A report presented to the National Assembly by Foreign Minister Kamau Macharia adds a new dimension to the abuse cases of Kenyans working in Saudi Arabia, which in the past have led the government to ban its citizens from looking for work in the country.
41 Kenyans died in Saudi Arabia this year, 28 of them domestic workers. Last year, 48 Kenyans – 29 of them domestic workers – died in the Middle East. The number of Kenyans in distress at the embassy in 2019 was 883, but the cases rose to 1,025 in the past year, according to the report presented to the working committee on Thursday.
The PS told the committee that the government accepted the Saudi government’s declaration of cardiac arrest and had never performed autopsies on the bodies to independently determine the causes of death.
This sparked a conviction of shocked MPs who suspected the deaths were being rotten and urged the government to do more to protect Kenyans in the Gulf from abuse.
Belgut MP Nelson Koech wondered how 89 people could have died from a single disease.
“There is no way that 89 people can die of a certain disease,” said Koech.
The PS agreed with MPs that not all deaths could be explained by a common factor, but insisted that its ministry’s functions do not include determining such matters.
“The Department of Labor and the National Labor Board should do this (autopsy reports confirm), but they have scaled back our message
“The statistics show the terrible reality we are facing. It warrants courageous and determined action to curb the continued suffering of Kenyan domestic workers in Saudi Arabia, ”he said, adding that the country should not tolerate such a high death toll.
Mr. Kamau blamed the “dysfunctional nature” of the Department of Labor for the problems, adding that they had become a “nightmare” for Kenya‘s diplomats as well. He said a “structured agreement” and the establishment of a full-fledged employment office dedicated to the affairs of immigrant workers would address the issue.
Dor to an undertaker and they want me to be an undertaker, “he said.