Seven days ultimatum for families trapped in Saudi

Joyce Moraa breaks down and is being consoled during an interview with The Standard on February 6th 2024. Her daughter Felister Nyambeki left for Saudi Arabia in 2021 as a migrant domestic worker, but since then she has never heard from her. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

A human rights lobby has issued a seven-day ultimatum to the government to bring back two women stuck in Saudi Arabia.

Haki Africa, in a media briefing on Tuesday, said Gladys Wanjiku, one of the women is reported to be admitted in a hospital.

While the whereabouts of Felister Nyambeki is unknown.

And now, they have threatened to stage protest at the Foreign Affairs offices and Saudi Arabia embassy to push for the plight of the two women.

"We are giving a seven days ultimatum to the government. We will mobilize all affected families to camp at Foreign Affairs ministry offices and also do action at the Saudi Embassy. We will not spare them," said Fredrick Ojiro, Haki Africa Rapid Response Officer.

Families of two missing women in Saudi Arabia are pleading with the government to help them evacuate their kin whose fates remain a mystery in the wake of government calls for Kenyans to apply for jobs abroad. 

The families on Tuesday the families said they have encountered difficulties in the hands of authorities while seeking help.

"I have been to the Ministry offices since November 2022 to no avail. We are just being taken in circles, we are exhausted," said Fredrick Murema, the uncle to Nyambeki, who last spoke to her family in 2022.

"As we speak we are not aware whether she is dead or alive, I got sick, I developed high blood pressure. I am not even able to feed my grandchildren," the mother, Joyce Moraa narrated as tears rolled down her cheeks overwhelmed by emotions. 

On December 14, 2021, Nyambeki, 36, left two-year-old twins in the hands of her mother to seek greener pastures as house-help in the Gulf country.

Her family explained that Nyambeki complained of mistreatment from her employer and said she suffered injuries from beatings that took her ill.

And for Wanjiku, Haki Afrika heard that she last spoke with her family residing in Kiambu County in 2019.

An amarture video footage in possession of the lobby group revealed that Wanjiku is battling for her life at King Khalid Hospital in Saudi Arabia.

"Gladys is not able to speak. We suspect she was rescued by a good samaritan because the medical documents we have obtained do not indicate her name nor citizenship," said Ojiro.

He noted Zipporah Wanjiku, who is the mother to Wanjiku, has since identified her daughter. 

According to Haki Africa, 20 more families have reported cases of their missing kin within the Gulf Countries. They called for urgent evacuation.

Addressing the media, the human rights defenders accused government officials for dropping the ball, neglecting the duty to ensure the well-being of Kenyan migrant workers in Middle East. 

The lobby argued that more gaps still emerge in the labour industry even as President William Ruto promised jobs abroad to increase foreign exchange remittance. 

Ruto has, in the recent past reiterated the need for Kenyans to seize job opportunities abroad, to address the unemployment rate in the country.

"I have agreed with Bore (Labour CS Florence Bore) that we will sign bilateral labour agreements so that we export labour from Kenya. We want to export 3,000 to 5,000 Kenyans every week so that they can go and work abroad to sustain their livelihood and also bring us money," President Ruto said during a Church function in Bomet county in November last year. 

On Tuesday, Ojiro termed the Nyambeki and Wanjiku's situation as human trafficking.

"How sure are we that our daughters are safe?" he said, accusing National Employment Authority (NEA) officers of colluding with recruitment agencies to bundle Kenyan migrant workers in the Gulf without addressing their plight.

“Can we say this is human trafficking. These girls are in hospital and they can't talk,” Ojiro said.

He added "Our girls are suffering, ranging from denial of food, confiscation of their travel documents, denied salaries and other basic human rights,” terming them as cruelty.

Ojiro also called out elected leaders for laxity in addressing the challenges faced by their electorates.