Give Saudi victims a break- their government has failed them

The wretched, according to the ancient words of the wise, never has a right in this world. Scales will always tilt against them and in favour of the well-to-do humans on any good day.

Like the oft mistreated Kenyan workers, while on sojourn, in search of greener pastures in the Middle East, who are now being blamed for their fate. We are almost making it look like they are the reason they are treated the way they are. How unfair!

The constant stream of stories in the media and on social media about their physical and mental abuse, detention and even death notwithstanding, a senior government official – a diplomat no less – reportedly fell short of blaming them for this unfortunate turn of events, the other day. That these individuals have apparently not been subservient or humble enough in discharging their duties as domestic workers, in a manner that meets the expectations of their employers and their cultures - whatever that means. Hence the terrible and inhuman treatment.

One would expect the stream of horror stories from these places would be reason enough for us all to introspect and revisit the entire ecosystem, consider why this continues unabated and take decisive action to address it. If at all it is dishing blame, there are so many much more deserving of having this left at their doorsteps but definitely not individuals looking to earn a decent living beyond our borders.

Top on the list are host nations where these workers go in search of livelihoods that cannot seem to guarantee their safety, and rogue agencies who are profiteering off this suffering and neglect. Then there are the perpetrators of the mistreatment taking advantage of the privilege of being employers, to treat these individuals as if they are lesser humans. So many quarters are to blame for where we find ourselves in this matter.

More importantly, there are also our government officials who have seemed to deliberately turn a blind eye to these happenings over the years. How else would this be going on with all the horror stories coming out of the Gulf, complete with heart-rending photos and videos? The best that the government officials have done is to claim to have discouraged dispatch of that category of workers – like they do not care – and to give statistics. Of course, managing this through bilateral relations could be complicated but do we even ask the host governments to take care of our people and ensure that they are treated like humans?

Forget the narrative that has been building recently about some of these countries being a growing source of remittances, for a moment. Of what benefit are all these billions flowing in from our relatives in these countries when we constantly worry about their safety while kinsmen live there? When we worry about whether or not they would be the next victims of terrible beatings and other forms of inhuman treatment that are reported from there. Or whether it will be their corpses coming in next, instead of the usual remittances. This is very bad and inhuman.

Ultimately, the government has a responsibility to take care of the lives, safety and well-being of her people, wherever they are in the world. Of course, it is beyond the borders and out of their control but there are definitely mechanisms to make this, even if not directly.

With the Kenyan diaspora scattered all over the world, it is not too much to expect that our government looks out for each and every one of us. That we are at least safe, if not anything else, reining in rogue profiteers and engaging with their counterparts to ensure this. With tough economic times, discouraging desperate individuals from travelling might not really work – let’s make the work safe, instead.

Is this too much to expect, and not to be blamed for the government errors of omission and commission, instead?


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