Centre for migrant workers in the Gulf set up in Nairobi

 ILO's Caroline Njuke and Cotu assistant secretary general Caroline Rutto during the opening of the Migrant Resource Centre. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

A centre to deal with issues affecting migrant workers has been opened in Nairobi amid rising cases of violation of their rights, especially in the Middle East.

The centre was launched through a partnership between International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu), and will be based at the latter's offices at Solidarity Building.

The opening ceremony was presided over by ILO's Caroline Njuke and Cotu assistant secretary general Caroline Rutto. Njuke was representing ILO Director Wellington Chibebe.

The centre to be known as Migrant Resource Centre, according to Njuke, will offer labour information to migrant workers besides addressing cases relating to violation of their rights.

"Since cases of abuse of women working as domestic workers in the Gulf countries shot up, we have been asking ourselves where space can be found to provide information to victims. We also thought of opening a space where they can get information before travelling to work abroad," said Njuke.

She added that the centre will be used by migrants to share information and offer pyscho socio support amongst themselves.

According to Njuke, there are high expectations by relatives from female domestic workers who go to seek employment in the Gulf.

"They are expected to succeed because in some case family properties were sold to enable them to travel. When they don't make it, they suffer a lot psychologically because they are expected to take care of the big families they leave behind," said Njuke.

She said that from ILO records Kenya has about 4 million migrant workers, emphasising that her organization will work with Cotu to ensure that there is fair payment of migrant workers.

The ILO official challenged the government to ensure that overseas job agencies do not charge recruitment fee on job seekers or people intending to travel abroad to work, saying that this was burdensome.

On why they chose to partner with Cotu, Njuke said that the workers organization understands well workers issues and it would be better placed to talk with its counterparts in another country whenever a problem arises. 

She also called on the government to enact the Labour Migration Bill and set up a Kenya migrant workers fund that can help those coming back, especially those faced with challenges.

Rutto said that the launch of the centre came as a result of reports of unfair job practices against Kenyan women working in Gulf countries as domestic workers.

Rutto said that many women workers in those countries were going through difficult situations.

"It is painful to see women who left the country healthy, energetic and full of life being brought back in coffins. This is modern-day slavery, Cotu is against it and with other Kenyans we are calling for its immediate end. There should be no more slavery going forward," stated Rutto.

Patricia Kimani who once worked in Saudi Arabia narrated her experience working there, saying that she went through a harrowing experience. She said that at one time six of them shared a small room and she ended up contracting Covid-19.

She also said that her passport and mobile phone were taken away immediately by her new bosses and that she was duped on the nature of job she was going to do.