A senior official at the Ministry of Labor said the Kenyan government’s decision to halt the export of domestic workers to Saudi Arabia was due to problems with the Kenyan government’s recruitment offices, and the desire of officials to monitor those offices after they were found to be involved in human trafficking.
Ahmed Al-Fuhaid, undersecretary at the Labor Ministry, said several Middle Eastern countries were affected by the decision, and not just Saudi Arabia.
He said the Ministry of Labor did not receive any information from the Kenyan side about their laborers recruited to work in the Kingdom, and the Kenyan government did not link the halting of labor exports to the Kingdom with the signing of an agreement with the Kingdom.
The Kenyan government stopped the export of its labor temporarily, including domestic workers to the Middle East and the Gulf, as it is currently working on organizing the internal process to stop malpractices.
A number of labor recruitment offices confirmed losses amounting to millions of riyals due to the halting of labor exports without warning. They said losses are also linked to fines and penalties imposed by the Ministry of Labor for each day of delay, despite not having control over the situation.
Mohammed Haber, a former member of the National Commission for Recruitment, explained that the crisis with Kenyan labor recruitment emerged after Ramadan, when offices in Kenya began to delay sending workers as they failed to comply with contracts. He said this led to the emergence of a black market in Kenya, and offices began raising the prices of labor. Saudi offices were forced to bow down to their demands in order to avoid hefty daily fines imposed by the Ministry of Labor, he said.
He added that the situation began to worsen after staff of Saudi offices in Kenya were being beaten and attacked, forcing their return to the Kingdom. The situation eventually prompted the Saudi Embassy in Kenya to halt the issue of work visas until the situation in Kenya is resolved, he explained.
One recruitment officer said that the sudden halt in the flow of Kenyan labor and the absence of an alternative from other countries has led to an increase in the cost of labor from SR800 to SR12,000. He said 150 contracts were discontinued during the last month, with losses exceeding R1 million.
Meanwhile, the owner of a recruitment office said the Ministry of Labor is responsible for the current financial obstacles, as the exporting countries closed their doors without warning the offices to take precautions, and without releasing any funds which are currently being held.