Labour CS Chelugui, Atwoli differ on the plight of workers abroad

Cabinet Secretary of Labour, Simon Chelugui [left] and Secretary-General of Central organization of trade unions, Francis Atwoli [right] entertained by Sarova Whitesands Hotel dancers during the official opening of the African labour administration centre--Committee of senior officials meeting at the Hotel. Francis Atwoli wants the government to administrate Kenyans who go for jobs in the Middle East instead of being taken to others countries by brokers. November 22, 2021. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

Cotu Secretary General Francis Atwoli has urged the Ministry of Labour to ban Kenyan workers from seeking employment in the Middle East.

Yesterday, Atwoli termed working conditions in the Middle East as slavery and called for the closure of agencies taking Kenyans to Arab nations.

He said some Kenyans had been killed and others mistreated in the Middle East, saying it was time the government ended their suffering.

“As a government, we should take care of our people. We are tired of watching our children coming back in coffins,” said Atwoli.

But Labour Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui said the government would not stop people from seeking greener pastures despite abuses in the Arab nations.

He said if the government banned immigration to the Arab countries, some Kenyans would still sneak through the Persian Gulf. Chelugui and Atwoli spoke at the 17th meeting of the African Regional Labour Administration Centre (ARLAC) committee of senior officials held in Mombasa.

The forum was attended by officials from Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Botswana, Eswatini, Namibia, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Sierra Leone.

Also in attendance was Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) executive director Jacqueline Mugo, chairperson of the ARLAC committee of senior officials Simon Masanga and Director of the International Labour Organization Hopolang Phororo.

Chelugui said ministry officials would be heading to Saudi Arabia next month to hold an inter-ministerial meeting with the Saudi government and address issues of oppression.

“The government is not going to ban the immigration of Kenyans to Middle East countries because those headed there are seeking greener pastures. We are working towards addressing these issues with the said countries and have an understanding,” said Chelugui.

The CS said only three to four per cent of Kenyans in the Arab countries suffer at the hands of their employers.

“It is only a small percentage of Kenyans who are suffering. We have more than 100,000 Kenyans working under favourable conditions,” said Chelugui. According to Chelugui, the remittance of Kenyan immigrants abroad had increased from Sh400 billion in 2018 to Sh510 billion in 2019.

Chelugui said the proportion of Kenyans in informal employment was high. Atwoli added that each town should have a labour office to inspect the welfare of workers.

By David Njaaga Sep. 22, 2022
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