The Budget and Appropriations Committee of the National Assembly has approved Sh304 million budget for the establishment of a safe house in Saudi Arabia.
The safe house will be used to accommodate Kenyan migrant workers who seek refuge from inhumane treatment by their employers. Harrowing tales of torture, mistreatment and killings of Kenyan house helps in the Gulf states have dominated news for many years.
Musyoka Kalla, Chief Administrative Officer in the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection says Saudi Arabia will host the first safe house but the government has plans to build others in the Gulf states.
Today, many are stranded in the Gulf, helpless and without hope of coming back home unless the government steps in to help. Unfortunately, there have been instances in which the government is unaware of who left the country because some of the recruiting agencies do not follow established channels.
Thus, the need to reinforce existing legislation on labour migration cannot be gainsaid. The government should monitor workers leaving the country and keep tabs on them as well as establish contact and reporting channels for them. The protection of citizens is a primary responsibility of any government.
The establishment of safe houses for distressed Kenyan workers is therefore welcome. However, Sh304 million for a safe house is a staggering amount and the government needs to explain to the public how the money will be spent. How was the figure arrived at? Could there be a cheaper alternative such as renting a house?
There should be no room at all for tenderpreneurs to make money here. Kenyans have not forgotten about the Tokyo embassy scandal in which Kenya lost Sh1 billion in irregular purchase of land.
In addition, Kenyans should push for justice and compensation for victims of torture and murder in the Gulf states. Perpetrators of violence against Kenyans must also be punished. Governments in the Gulf States have a duty to educate their people about racism and human rights. We are in a new dispensation in which slavery must be frowned upon.