CONCERNS

Locals raise red flag over illegal foreign recruiting agencies

Most using city restaurants to recruit

In Summary

•The Association of Skilled Migrant Agencies of Kenya says the purported directors of these companies have been using tourist visas to get into the country.

•High number of foreigners in the business lack work permits.

A view shows buildings in Doha, Qatar, June 9, 2017. REUTERS/
A view shows buildings in Doha, Qatar, June 9, 2017. REUTERS/

Kenyan recruiting agencies have raised a red flag over an insurgence of foreign firms operating in the country without proper documentation.

Majority of these companies are being run by individuals from the Arab sates mainly Saudi Arabia, Oman, United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

According Association of Skilled Migrant Agencies of Kenya(ASMAK), the purported directors of these companies have been using tourist visas to get into the country, after which they set temporary offices using locals.

Others are using hotels and restaurants to run their businesses without work permits, mainly targeting domestic workers seeking employment abroad.

“Uganda house is notorious with these companies' activities,” ASMAK chairman Harun Ambenje pointed out yesterday, “These people don't have work permits, they come in with tourist visas, stay here for three weeks go to Uganda, Sudan then comes back.”

The majority of those that seek clearance, using local proxies, breach requirements for accreditation, Ambenje said.

This includes the provision that any recruiting agency must be affiliated to an association before it is accredited, which Kenyan authorities are accused of overlooking.

Of the 320 recruitment agencies accredited by the National Employment Authority(NEA), only about 100 are members of the two recognized associations–the Kenya Association of Private Employment Agencies (KAPEA) andASMAK, Ambenje said.

Between June and December last year, there were over 200 companies registered which did not belong to any association, he said.

“The Act that formed NEA requires that you must have a certificate with an association before you get registered. This is for accountability, discipline and compliance and to help government monitor activities in the industry,” Ambenje said.

The locals are concerned that NEA has been registering companies not affiliated with any association.

“More than 70 agencies belonged to Arabs and foreigners as of November last year. Chances are they have gone above 100,” ASMAK notes.

The firms are also said to breach requirements such as the mandatory two weeks training for recruits before they travel, a programme used for prepare the workers on the job, culture, and environment they are going to work in.

“These people are using Kenyan proxies to register companies which they later take over and run the show,” Ambenje said, adding that the agencies are not paying taxes nor remitting any money to the government.

Apart from operating in the city, the agencies are also accused of luring unsuspecting Kenyans, mainly girls in the villages, whom they send out as house helps.

“We have talked to NEA, even given them names but they have not cracked the whip,” Ambenje said.

This, he said, has seen Kenyans fail to get help when the need is, as the agencies side with employers in their home countries.

In a telephone interview with the Star, NEA Director-General Edith Okoki said such cases have been forwarded to the police, urging the associations to report any firm or individual that is operating illegally in the country.

“We have told them they bring us the cases. We have no way of knowing unless somebody brings the people to us,” Okoki said.

Before an agency is accredited, it must present articles and memorandum of incorporation to NEA, a certified copy of company registration certificate, a list of current directors and shareholding percentage for locals and foreigners.

The authority also requires directors’ copies of identification cards or passports, copy of police clearance certificate, a tax compliance certificate from KRA, a valid county government license, a valid lease or tenancy agreement, copies of academic certificates of directors and HR manager and valid work permit for foreign directors.

“There is a procedure to be followed by anyone who wants to register as a recruiting agency,” Okoki affirmed.

With unemployment in the country at about 7.4 per cent, with about 85 per cent below 35 years, Kenyans have been seeking opportunities abroad in both skilled and unskilled labour, where a number have ended up stranded in foreign countries, mainly in the Gulf.