Gulf Death Traps: 283 Kenyan migrant workers died in Gulf between 2020-2022

Friends and relatives of the late Ansiclla Kafedha Charo who was tortured and died while working in Saudi Arabia as a househelp, carry the remains of her body soon after it arrived at the Moi International Airport in Mombasa. [File, Standard]

A total 283 Kenyan migrant workers have died in the Gulf in the last three years, Labour and Social Protection Cabinet Secretary Florence Bore has revealed.

The CS while appearing before Parliament on Wednesday told MPS that the deaths had been recorded in the period between January 2020 and November 2022.

Bore was responding to queries by legislators on the status of Kenyans in the Gulf amid hue and cry over mistreatment.

According to the CS's submissions, 185 Kenyans lost their lives in the Saudi Arabia Kingdom between January 2020 and November 2022. A breakdown of the figures showed that 48 of the deaths were reported in 2020, 60 in 2021 and a further 77 deaths in 2022.

In the United Arab Emirates, 45 deaths were reported from 2020 to December 2022. This, Bore said, comprised of 10 deaths reported in 2020, 17 in 2021 and 18 in 2022.

A total of 53 Kenyans lost their lives in Qatar with 26 deaths reported in 2022.

“There were varying causes of death ranging from homicide to illness but we were able to notify the next of kin of the reported cases through our established channels,” stated Bore.

She explained that a major challenge to Kenyan migrant workers, especially those undocumented and without the requisite legal residency permits, was access to healthcare which had also contributed to high number of deaths.

State may suspend travel to Saudi for domestic workers

The CS noted that most of Kenyans in the Gulf countries are domestic workers while others work in the banking, hotel and catering, education, transport and agriculture sectors.

She said 175 disputes have been reported by Kenyan migrant workers in Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia this year alone.

The disputes, Bore explained, had to do with residency ID, unpaid wages, change of employer, workload, exit after concluding employment contract, medical treatment, injury, being held in recruitment agencies, accommodation without being allocated employment, regular extension of contracts, runaway employees and travel documents.

"A total of 121 cases were resolved through involving parties in conflict and the Saudi authorities where necessary. A total of 97,173 Saudi Riyal were subsequently recovered and paid to the respective parties,” added the CS.

At the same time, the government has set out a raft of measures aimed at protecting Kenyan migrant workers in Saudi Arabia.

Bore yesterday brought to the fore that her ministry had signed a bilateral labour agreement with the Saudi Kingdom on the recruitment of domestic workers.

She said the agreement was currently being reviewed to address the emerging labour and employment concerns.

“A multi-agency technical committee with representation from the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, Foreign and Diaspora Affairs and Office of the Attorney General have prepared amendments to the agreement and the same has been submitted to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for consideration,” saidd Bore.

The CS revealed that the Labour Ministry has also developed the Labour Migration Management Bill, 2023 in collaboration with stakeholders which seeks to promote safe, ethical and orderly recruitment and safeguard the rights and welfare of migrant workers.