Kenya hits Saudi Arabia for mistreating workers

Cabinet Secretary for Labor and Social Protection, Simon Chelugui. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

Labor Department officials will travel to Saudi Arabia to handle cases of ill-treatment of Kenyans working in the Middle East.

Cabinet Secretary for Labor and Social Protection Simon Chelugui said during the visit next month that Kenya is trying once and for all to tackle the mistreatment of its nationals.

Chelugui said the two governments will sign a bilateral agreement on laws regulating the employment of Kenyan immigrants in Saudi Arabia.

“We want to go to Saudi Arabia, meet their officials and find a solution to this problem that is of great concern to the government,” said Chelugui.

The CS responded to the Secretary General of the Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU), Francis Atwoli, who accused the ministry of failing to protect the Kenyans working in Saudi Arabia.

Atwoli said most Kenyans in the country were being treated like slaves, adding that the rate at which Kenyans were being killed was alarming.

However, Chelugui said the Kenyans mistreated in Saudi Arabia were immigrants smuggled out of the country by unscrupulous employment agencies.

He said the people recruited by such agents did not have appropriate documents that would enable the government to process their return.

Chelugui said the government signed a bilateral labor agreement with Qatar that passed Kenyan laws to protect migrant workers from the country.

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. [Reuters]

He said the government also plans to change immigration laws to regulate those who leave the country to work abroad.

“We want to control the immigration of Kenyans who are looking for work out of the country so that Kenyans who work in other countries are safe in those countries,” said the CS.

Chelugui assured the board, recently appointed by the government, that new directors of the National Labor Office will be announced shortly.

He also praised the directors of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), whose term recently expired. He said the board members brought order to the organization, which is now doing well financially.

Atwoli had also criticized the government’s decision to withdraw social protection from the Ministry of Labor. He argued that the related issues were labor matters and should therefore have been left to this ministry.

“I was shocked to learn that the Department of Labor had had its social security records withdrawn,” said Atwoli.

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