Kenyan media has been awash with horror stories of Kenyan migrant workers languishing and even dying in the Middle East. This has shocked the nation and many pundits have been proposals on how best to address this menace.
On the other hand, Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) data shows that Kenyans in the diaspora including those in the Middle East and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, sent home Sh422 billion in 2021.
Interestingly, remittance from Kenyans in Saudi Arabia alone was about Sh22 billion in the last eight months of the year, making it the third-largest source of remittances for Kenya behind USA and the United Kingdom.
Evidently, migration is a mixed basket for the country and cannot just be wished away without proper governance. While we condemn in the strongest terms possible the mistreatment of the migrants, we must not lose sight of the mega benefits of migration as demonstrated by the many positive stories from the same diaspora.
President William Ruto after being sworn in spoke of the need to elevate diaspora matters to the ministerial level and true to his word, he has created a whole department at the Ministry of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs to be headed by a Principal Secretary.
Unbeknown to many people, the Kenya National Migration Policy being spearheaded by the National Coordination Mechanism of Migration secretariat in collaboration with the International Organisation for Migration and other partners has been in the works since 2018.
The main goal of this policy is to set a migration governance road map; mainstream the role of migration in national security and development, strengthen the migration and development nexus and appreciate the impact of other cross-cutting issues on migration.
The management of migration presents opportunities and challenges to states and individual migrants and is driven by a multitude of factors such as globalisation, changing demographics, education, family unification, poverty, unemployment, poor governance, climatic change, political instability, community marginalisation, wage differentials, among others.
Migration may be voluntary or forced, documented or undocumented, among other dichotomies. Understanding these dynamics can help the government and its partners to plan, manage and align human mobility to meet national, regional, and global socio-economic agendas.
While CBK regularly gives data about remittances, data on the demographics of Kenyans in the diaspora is scanty and often not accurate but we hope the elevation of Diaspora Affairs to a Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will help in this matter.
A review of the draft National Migration Policy indicates a comprehensive document that is in line with global standards as set in the Global Compact for Migration that encourages all countries to formulate a National Migration Policy to streamline migration governance for safe, orderly and dignified migration.
To a large extent, the nine-part draft Kenya National Migration Policy captures most of the issues that if well addressed will see Kenya manage migration in a win-win manner, rather than the current situation that has led to a lot of human suffering and loss of life.
Suffice to say, this will be a national document that will now guide sectoral and county-level policies to address specific areas such as labour migration, forced migration, climate change and disaster-induced migration among other cross-cutting issues.
Certainly, a lot of effort has gone into arriving at this draft policy that now awaits the new Cabinet to take it through the next stages.
While the benefits of migration are many and diverse, poor migration governance could expose the country to untold dangers such as terrorism and transnational crimes as we have experienced before. I urge the new Interior Cabinet Secretary to consider this policy as one of his top priorities for the sake of our country.
George Mati Mucee is an immigration Consultant and CEO GMM Consulting