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Anger over plight of Kenyans in Saudi Arabia

The Kenyan government is facing growing pressure to intervene in the increasing cases of mistreatment of Kenyan citizens working in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Nominated Senator Emma Mbura is in the forefront of a campaign for the repatriation of more than 130 Kenyan girls who are either in jail, dentition or are being held and forced to work for nothing in the Middle East country.

Ms Mbura also has blamed the Kenyan Ambassador in Saudi Arabia H. E. Mohamud Ali Saleh for his failure to address the plight of Kenyans in Saudi Arabia and saying she intends to petition the government to have Kenyans stuck in Saudi Arabia repatriated.

“Our Ambassador in Saudi Arabia has been doing nothing to help Kenyan girls who are suffering in Saudi Arabia. I would be best if President Uhuru Kenyatta recalled him and appoints someone who can effectively tackle the issue,” the legislator said.

When reached by Nairobi News, a representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs initially reacted by saying lack of information or sometimes ignorance is what has been the cause of Kenyans’ plight in Saudi Arabia.

But while speaking to the press on Friday Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed said the government is looking into the issue of having Kenyans detained in Saudi Arabia returned home.

It is not the first time that Kenyans have demanded for the return of citizens from the Middle East country and in June 2012 the government banned Kenyans from going to the Middle East as domestic workers. The ban was lifted  in November 2013.


The Kenyan government has faced accusations of failing to adequately monitor overseas recruitment agencies while the Saudi government has a reputation of indifference to the plight of foreigners.

The Kenyan labour ministry said that it had inspected 389 out of an estimated 500 labour recruitment agencies. In 2013 the Kenyan government rescued more than 800 of its citizens from Saudi jails.

Violations such as sexual harassment, violence, torture and starvation are real risks for Kenyan women working in Saudi Arabia.

Many of them go to the Middle East to work but oftentimes they end up being exploited in domestic servitude, brothels, and massage parlors or in forced manual labour.

In January, 2010 a Kenyan woman accused her Saudi employer of throwing her out of a third floor window, breaking her legs and hands.

Another Kenyan worker said she had to live on dog food because her employers neither fed her nor allowed her out of the house.

One woman, known as Naomi, found work in Saudi Arabia through a Nairobi-based recruitment agency but left her employer after being attacked, insulted, and overworked and having her mobile phone confiscated.

In October 2014, the Saudi Embassy spokesman Ali al Othman denied, through the Daily Nation, that there was any Kenyan who had been killed or mistreated by their employers. He also denied that there are Kenyans detained in immigration detention centres in his country.