We nearly died in Saudi Arabia,househelps say
Just a few days after the new ambassador to Saudi Arabia was put to task by MPs on how he intends to end mistreatment of Kenyan workers in the Middle East nation, a group of girls who faced horrific ordeals while working as househelps there have come out to tell horrid tales of their stay and warned others not to seek jobs in that country.
Members of Parliament vetting ambassador-designate Mohamoud Mohamed wanted to know how he would handle the never-ending problem of Kenyan domestic workers who are harassed, tortured, some even killed. He recommended that recruiting agencies for low cadre jobs be scrutinised and registered and advised Kenyans not to seek such menial work there.
The heart-rending stories by some Kenyan women who were helped to return home recently from Saudi Arabia would make anyone seeking domestic work in that country to shy away and shun the agencies that dupe them of good fortunes abroad, only to hand them over to work that borders on slavery.
More than 10 women called a press conference in a Nairobi hotel yesterday to warn those yearning to go there that hell, or death, await them in the hands of brutal employers. The People Daily learnt that recruiting agencies lie to the would-be workers, majority of whom are young women, that they would be migrating to work in Dubai.
In their ignorance, they are flown directly to Saudi Arabia where they are cheated they would stay for a short while before they are taken to the UAE. When Nelly Nyokabi heard about a good Job in ‘Dubai’, she couldn’t wait for her passport to be processed to go. Nyokabi, 32, heard that househelps were paid well in ‘Dubai’.
She acquired a passport, paid about Sh10,000 to the agency for visa-processing and another Sh4,000 fee. Landing at the Saudi capital, Riyadh, she was received by an Arab man who also received about 10 other girls. “We were driven somewhere to an old house that looked badly kept.
About 20 other girls were in there. We would later learn many of them were from Nigeria,” she said. She said, “I asked the male agent when I would be going to Dubai, but he barked at me, pushing me out of the way. Later I used my cellphone to call my agent back in Kenya, asking him why I had been taken to Saudi Arabia, yet the contract had stipulated Dubai.
I got a rude shock, he told me to work or get back home”. Nyokabi was surprised the following morning to notice that different men would come to the house to literary buy the women for cash from the local agent. She said in tears: “I was sold for a few Saudi Riyals to a man who looked at me, touched me everywhere, before counting the cash.
I was taken to a home and locked up in a chicken coop for three days without food. After that I was pushed into an outside open shower and told to wash. I was beaten up and overworked, staying awake for 16 hours or more. Some things they did to me I cannot say here.”
One day when the employers were away, she managed to escape. “I walked to a police station. I was shocked to meet many Kenyan women in the cells, some were so sick and some even died.The cops wouldn’t let us go back to Kenya since they said we were indebted to our employers; for them to release us we were to pay the amount owed,” she said.
Finally she managed to return home courtesy of a human rights group that pays debts for such foreigners and repatriates them. Rachael Wanjiru, 30, worked in similar conditions fort a while, earning 16,000 per month instead of the Sh50,000 she had been promised. She was also rescued by a Good Samaritan who paid her ticket back home.
But Tilda Wangu had it more rough. She could not agree to have her picture published for the shame she feels. She was raped almost daily in turns by three sons of her employers. “They beat me up, they abused me, they raped me and handled me like an animal,” she says.
She has scars on her body and she is still continuing treatment for injuries incurred in her private parts. “The Saudi Arabians are not afraid to kill you, it’s like the norm for them to kill, I urge the government to rescue the women who are still detained there, they are thousands,” she said sobbing uncontrollably.
Last year alone, the Kenyan embassy in Riyadh came to the rescue of more than 800 Kenyans languishing in Saudi jails. Parliamentary Defence and Foreign Relations Committee vice chairman Barre Shill told the new ambassador, of the 100,000 Kenyans working in the Gulf countries, 10,000 were in Saudi Arabia with 3,000 working as domestic workers.
Politicians James Nyoro and Ferdinand Waititu who helped the girls yesterday hold a press conference called on Parliament to send a parliamentary committee to Saudi Arabia to investigate the matter.