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LAND OF OPPORTUNITY?

Why job-seekers flock to Middle East despite horror stories

Kenya has made deals with Gulf nations to protect expatriates

In Summary

• Kenya’s economy is not growing as fast it should to absorb all the graduates coming out of local universities every year

Friends and relatives of Ansila Charo, one of the two Kenyan domestic workers who died in Saudi Arabia last year, mourn at after viewing her body at Jocham Funeral home, Mombasa
Friends and relatives of Ansila Charo, one of the two Kenyan domestic workers who died in Saudi Arabia last year, mourn at after viewing her body at Jocham Funeral home, Mombasa
Image: ANDREW KASUKU

Kenyans still travel to the Middle East in search of well-paying jobs despite knowing about ill treatment from some employers in the oil-rich region.

The government on May 2019 announced it will export workers abroad, particularly the Middle East, in a bid to contain high unemployment rates locally.

The announcement by then Labour CS Ukur Yatani was expected to see more Kenyans fly to the Gulf region to seek for jobs with better payment terms.

 

According to the World Bank, Middle East countries have an average Income Per Capita of Sh7.1 million compared to Kenya’s Sh3,250.

Per capita income or average income is revenue earned per person in a given area in a specified period, usually one year. It is calculated by dividing the area's total income by its total population.

“We are now streamlining labour migration by looking for opportunities for our workers to migrate to other countries where there are jobs, particularly in the Middle East,” Yatani said while speaking in Mombasa.

The CS said Kenyans need to seek for employment opportunities outside the country as Kenya’s economy is not growing as fast it should to absorb all the graduates coming out of local universities every year.

The government gave the exportation of labour an affirmation despite the traumatising experiences by some Kenyans in the desert region.

Some Kenyans have died at the hands of employers in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, among other Gulf countries.

Following the government agreement, East Africa’s economic powerhouse is expected to send at least 100,000 workers to Saudi Arabia alone.

 

SAFEGUARDS INCORPORATED

Yatani said Kenya had entered into bilateral agreements with countries including Kuwait that will host Kenyan workers. The agreements feature negotiations for the welfare of Kenyan workers as well as better salary.

He said the government will make sure there are suitable insurance schemes for Kenyan employees who will fly out to work. He also said their employers will provide better housing facilities for them.

Confiscation of Kenyans’ passports when they land in the Middle East countries will also stop following the agreements since Labour attaches have been dispatched to the Middle East.

Kenyans expected to be flown out of the country would also be subjected to mandatory training before departure, the CS said. The training will involve educating travellers about their rights.

According to the World Poverty Clock Report released in 2018, Kenya is ranked eighth in the world and sixth in Africa among countries with the highest number of people living in abject poverty.

According to the report, 14.7 million Kenyans, representing 29 per cent of the country’s total population, are extremely poor as they earn less than Sh200 per day.

This is despite the United Nations through the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) working tirelessly to reduce the number of people living in extreme poverty by 2030. Poverty is among the catalysts of migration.

It compels people to move out of their countries to search for better economic opportunities. Turkana, the World Poverty Clock Report said, had the highest number of people clouded by abject poverty, with 87.4 per cent (756,306) people in the volatile region in Northern Western Kenya classified as very poor.

By the time the report was released, Kenya had recorded a decrease in the number of people living in poverty by 10.5 per cent since 2008. The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics says the decline was as a result of devolution, which channelled more resources to the countryside.

It also attributed it to economic growth, as Kenya’s economy grew by 5.2 per cent each year between 2006 and 2016. This helped activate economic development and subsequently scale down the number of people living below the poverty line.

As Kenya agreed to export its labour force to the Middle East, Qatar in return, accepted to open its market for Kenyan meat and meat products.