Stop Kenyans from seeking jobs in the Gulf if we can't protect them

Slaida Vugutsa's mother Robai Seyangwa is consoled by relatives after viewing her body for confirmation at JKIA on April 29, 2021. Slaida was allegedly murdered and dumped by her employer in Saudi Arabia. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

With the rising rate of unemployment (2.64 per cent in 2019 and 7.27 per cent in 2020), Kenya’s youth are turning to more desperate measures to find jobs.

And when an opportunity arises that is tailor-made to entice desperate job seekers, it is the most desperate and those with little else to turn to (socially, financially and professionally) who fall prey to the trap of jobs that promise a lucrative source of livelihood but instead delivers death.

For many women seeking domestic jobs in Gulf countries, that quest for a happy life turns tragic by the day. They leave Kenya in search of a better life with hopes of returning safe and sound, but end up victims of violence, torture, sexual harassment and even murder.

Those who are lucky to escape from the hands of their cruel employers end up on the streets or being taken in by fellow Kenyans who are barely better off than themselves.

For many who lose their lives in the Gulf, the causes of death are never revealed by the host country or the Kenyan embassy. Their families are left digging for the truth on their own and there is little help available for those who wish to repatriate the bodies of their loved ones. And for those who are lucky to find good employers and who find the ways to navigate the numerous challenges of working in a foreign country, the hope and refuge that they seek is like a candle that can be snuffed out at any moment.

Granted, not every person who finds employment in a Gulf country returns in a coffin and neither do they all become victims of cruel employers. So aren’t the individual employers to blame and not the two governments or the agents who ferry them there?

The answer to this question lies in the high numbers and the extreme circumstances of reported employment-gone-wrong cases. It all boils down to the measures (if any) that have been put in place to protect workers who seek employment in these countries.

Graphics: The Standard

In addition, there should be measures here at home to protect job seekers from falling prey to unscrupulous agents who cast their net across the country, netting as many unemployed young women as possible and dumping them in a foreign country without following up on their welfare.

The government should also clamp down on agents who disguise themselves as job recruitment agencies, but who are indeed involved in human trafficking or organ and slave trade.