Minister Admits Neglect of Kenyans in UAE


Foreign Affairs assistant minister Richard Onyonka shocked Parliament with an admission that the government casually handled the plight of Kenyans working in the United Arab Emirates.

The assistant minister could not give a satisfactory explanation why some Kenyans in the UAE had been denied work permits, only giving excuses that the government was still working on measures aimed at correcting the situation.

“Unfortunately, we have handled this matter very casually,” he admitted.

There were 31,725 Kenyans working in the UEA in 2009, according to the UAE. The Government of Kenya estimates the number could have increased to 40,000.

Kenya does not, however, have official records of its citizens who work in the UAE and on Tuesday, the assistant Foreign Affairs minister said this was the Ministry of Labour’s responsibility.

UAE issues work permits to applicants who meet the basic requirements to take up employment but, according to Wajir West MP Adan Keynan, a government official misbehaved in the UAE, making it difficult for Kenyans to get work permits.

Mr Onyonka confirmed that an increasing number of Kenyans had failed to get security clearance to work in the UAE in recent years.

In one case, “blocked country” was given as the reason for not granting security clearance to a Kenyan applicant.

Gichugu MP Martha Karua had raised the issue in the House and several other MPs raised further questions.

Mr Onyonka said several efforts had been made to address the problem since it first surfaced.

The assistant minister said a draft labour agreement was under review and consultations were ongoing. He claimed the ministry had sorted out the matter through “quiet diplomacy.”

“We are working to ensure that whatever bilateral agreements we sign with UAE are strictly followed to the letter to ensure fair treatment of our citizens,” he said.

He also encouraged Kenyans who take up jobs in the UAE to register with the Kenyan ambassador to ensure their rights were safeguarded through the bilateral agreements.

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