The government might consider barring Kenyans from working in Saudi Arabia, a diplomat has said.
Mr Mohamud Saleh, Kenya’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said Nairobi may do so to avoid rampant cases of work-related disputes involving Kenyans and their Saudi employers.
The decision could also pre-empt a likely bilateral spat between the two countries.
“As ways of dealing with these issues, we shall be forced to ban them from working in Saudi Arabia,” Mr Saleh told the Nation.
The announcement comes at a time when unscrupulous agents are involved in irregular recruitment of Kenyans for jobs in the Middle East.
He said most of the Kenyans who are abused by their Saudi employers were recruited through unregistered recruitment agencies based in Mombasa, Nairobi and Embu, among other towns.
“There are 30,000 registered Kenyans working in Saudi Arabia as skilled professionals and unskilled. These Kenyans have no problem but we have a small percentage of Kenyans who are not in the records of the embassy. They are the ones who are involved in a number of disputes with their employers,” Mr Saleh said.
The ambassador said that Kenyans employed through the unregistered agencies avoided reporting to the embassy in Riyadh but only surface when they were embroiled in disputes with their employers or caught up by the long arm of the Saudi Sharia law.
“They don’t report to our embassy until they have a problem. I have rescued a number of Kenyans from having their hands chopped off over theft of their employers’ jewellery,” he said.
The ambassador said the abused Kenyans were to blame for taking shortcuts to secure employment.
He said the embassy had intervened and resolved a number of cases where Kenyans and their employers were locked in disputes over terms and conditions of work.
“Employers always insist that the amounts they pay Kenyans are as per agreements reached between them and their Kenya-based recruitment agents. We are left with no option but to repatriate them,” he said.
He added: “So far, we have brought back 462 Kenyans safely. We provided them with food, air tickets and ensured their safe return after keeping them for days at our embassy’s offices,”
Mr Saleh advised Kenyans working in the Middle East country to form an association that would work closely with the embassy.