Kenya seeks to address challenges facing migrant workers in Saudi Arabia

The Kenyan delegation led by Cabinet Secretary for Labor and Social Protection Florence Bore with officials from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. /Ministry of Labor and Social Protection

Saudi Arabia is one of the key destinations for Kenya’s domestic workers. Data from the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection shows that in 2022 alone nearly 80,000 domestic workers secured jobs in the Arab country. These migrant workers have also formed part of the largest pool of diaspora remittances. In 2021, the East African nation became one of the top four highest remittance-recipient countries in Africa gaining at least 3.7 billion U.S dollars.

However, it has not been all rosy as Kenya’s domestic workers in the Middle East have also been confronted with a myriad of challenges including inadequate response to distress cases, contract substitution by some employers and agencies, and confiscation of travel documents by some agencies among others. It is against this background that Kenya’s Minister for Labor and Social Protection Florence Bore led a delegation to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in a quest to address some of these perennial challenges.

The Kenyan delegation led by Cabinet Secretary for Labor and Social Protection Florence Bore with officials from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. /Ministry of Labor and Social Protection

The Kenyan delegation held a bilateral meeting with the kingdom’s minister for Human Resource and Social Development Ahmed bin Sulaiman Al Rajh. Their talks threw a spotlight on the current opportunities for strengthening labor migration systems between the two countries including the understanding of the labor migration policy and legal context in Saudi Arabia.

The Kenyan minister made several submissions that she believes will go a long way in addressing the age-old concerns of domestic workers. “We must put in place mechanisms for regular consultations and exchange of views on emerging issues through physical meetings and leveraging virtual communication platforms,” she said.

She added that establishing a mechanism for fast-tracking travel arrangements for Kenyan agents wishing to travel to Saudi Arabia and sorting out issues affecting the migrant workers and exploring the possibility of facilitating professional and other skilled cadres to access employment opportunities should be considered.

The Kenyan delegation also met with the Saudi Arabia recruitment agencies who underscored the need for intensive per-departure training to prepare the migrant workers for different country work contexts.

“They shared opportunities for employment for both skilled and domestic workers for Kenyans. They also highlighted some of the challenges faced by migrant workers and the agencies themselves.”

Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Labor and Social Protection Florence Bore interacts with Kenyan Domestic Workers in Saudi Arabia. /Ministry of Labor and Social Protection

Some domestic workers have in the past been deported from the Middle East for varied reasons. This saw Kenya’s delegation also visit Sakan, a private organization responsible for providing a safe haven for ladies in the domestic sector facing repatriation.

“We had first-hand opportunity to meet with the girls at the Sakan and listened to their experiences while working in the domestic sector abroad. My Ministry is keen on finding collaborative solutions to the existing challenges,” Bore submitted.

Kenyan mission also discussed with Saudi Arabia’s Employment Authority how to incorporate a robust integrated online system that can help Kenyans seeking opportunities abroad.