Some 93 Kenyans have died in the Middle East in the past three years, a minister has said.
Labour Cabinet Secretary (CS) Simon Chelugui told MPs that the Ministry is unable to provide a detailed breakdown on the deaths of the Kenyans, which occurred mostly in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“We are following up with the Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Interior to know who the victims are and where they came from in the country,” Mr Chelugui told the National Assembly’s Labour Committee.
The CS had appeared before the Labour Committee alongside Principal Secretary Peter Tum to explain the circumstances that led to the death of Melvin Kang’ereha in Saudi Arabia in 2020.
He said that since January 2019, the ministry facilitated the employment of over 87,784 Kenyans in the Gulf Region. A majority of the migrant workers are in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE and Bahrain.
“Within the same period, the ministry has received reports of 93 deaths of Kenyan migrant workers in the Gulf Region.
“A majority of the cases are reported to have been caused by natural death such cardiac arrest, Covid-19, cancer, childbirth, respiratory complication, tuberculosis and meningitis. Other causes include accidents and suicide.
Nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi, who sought to know how Ms Kang’ereha died, rejected Mr Chelugui’s response that the young woman died in prison from natural causes after she was jailed for threatening to kill her employer.
Mr Osotsi promised to table video and audio recordings of the woman pleading with her employer and United Manpower Services Limited to return her to Kenya.
“I have video and audio recordings that would proof that this woman did not die of natural causes. There is a Philippine witness and the case is being pursed in Saudi Arabia by human rights groups. I find the answers unsatisfactory,” Mr Osotsi said.
He said the recruiting agent refused to hear the pleas of the Kenyan worker after the Saudi employer mistreated and tortured her including denying her meals.
“United Manpower Services instead transferred the young woman to another employer who mistreated and tortured her leading to her imprisonment. Apart from relying on third party information from Saudi authorities, what have you done to do proper investigations?” Mr Osotsi said.
He demanded to know the action the Ministry has taken to compel United Manpower Services to compensate the family of the deceased.
Mr Chelugui conceded that the Ministry relied on Saudi authorities which said the cause of death was a result of natural causes in prison.
“We have only one Labour Attaché in Jeddah whom we rely on to handle Saudi Arabia which is as big as East Africa region. We need funds to hire six more attachés to cover Saudia,” he said.
The minister said the government has entered into three bilateral Labour agreements with the governments of Qatar, UAE and Saudi Arabia in a bid to protect migrant workers.
Mr Chelugui said a draft Labour Migration Management Bill and a Migrant Workers Welfare Fund will be established following a Cabinet directive.