Kenya intends to build a safe house in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to give refuge to Kenyan workers facing abuse in the country.
In the Ksh3.3 trillion budget for this financial year ending June 2023, lawmakers approved a Ksh374 million expenditure for the safe house, a move that is welcome, considering increasing cases of Kenyan workers facing abuse and human rights violations in that country.
Parliament’s Committee on Labour and Social Welfare data shows the number of Kenyans working and living in Saudi Arabia rose from 55,000 in 2019 to 97,000 this year, mostly domestic workers.
Harsh economic realities and high levels of unemployment have pushed many Kenyan women and girls to cross borders in search of better opportunities. But most of them end up in the hands of brutal and abusive employers who subject them to perpetual misery, mental anguish and untold hardship. Some have succumbed to injuries inflicted by their vicious bosses.
Saudi Arabia has emerged as the fastest-growing source of remittances, pointing to increasing migration of jobless Kenyan workers despite cases of abuse and cruel treatment of foreign domestic workers in the Middle East nation.
Statistics from the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) show that Ksh22.65 billion ($188.79 million) was sent back home by Kenyans living in Saudi Arabia in the first eight months of the year.
This ranks the Gulf nation as the third-largest source of remittances for Kenya behind the United Kingdom (Ksh25.4 billion) and the United States (Ksh188.8 billion).
In June this year, Labour Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui said Sh70 million has been set aside to build safe houses in Saudi Arabia where Kenyan migrants have undergone mental and physical violations.
He added that it will now be mandatory for all private recruiting agents to register with the National Employment Authority (NEA) to be allowed to export labour.
“In the last two years, we have registered 97 cases of Kenyans who have died while working abroad but we want to end it,” singling out the Coast region as one of the areas with the highest number of unregistered job recruitment agents with some being used to recruit youth to terror groups.