There is need for governments from the East and Horn of Africa region to dialogue with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and come up with solutions that will improve labour migration in the region.
Labour and Social Protection Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui said a well-managed labour mobility has the potential to yield significant benefits to the origin and destination countries of the migrants.
“Countries need to work together to ensure that we eliminate the challenges associated with poor labour migration such as unethical recruitment, smuggling and trafficking of persons, migrants working without proper travel documents and mistreatment and abuse by employers,” he said.
Other challenges include adequacy of social protection by releasing salaries to the workers, contract substitution by employers and agencies and confiscation of travel documents by employers.
The CS who was speaking today during a virtual consultative meeting on labour migration with Ambassadors from the GCC countries said labour migration is vital due to its immense socio-economic benefits to the countries involved.
Chelugui said it is estimated that there are over four million Kenyans in the diaspora seeking employment opportunities, and to encourage orderly labour migration, Kenya has signed three bilateral labour agreements with a few GCC members namely the Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The CS added that the government has also initiated the development of bilateral labour agreements with Jordan, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain.
“Kenya has also posted labour attaches to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar to support services for migrant workers’ welfare and to support the implementation of bilateral labour agreements,” he added.
Chelugui said in recognition of the role GCC plays as destination market for Kenyan migrant workers, Kenya has developed a training programme to provide them with home care workers with the skills required by GCC.
He at the same time thanked the governments of GCC for assisting migrant workers during this time of Covid-19 pandemic to meet health, travel and workplace protocols.
The CS added that the establishment of a labour office in the country by the Qatar State will reduce the challenges of contract substitution, activities of unregistered agencies and brokers and cost of recruitment.
He said the meeting was crucial for Kenya as it aims at providing an opportunity for the country to analyse the current state of affairs on labour migration from Kenya to the GCC member states, to identify possible areas of partnerships and intervention and explore on prospects of funding from GCC members states on labour migration initiatives in the country among others.
The right of free movement of people is recognised as a fundamental part of integration as enshrined in the Free Movement Protocol developed by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development and the East African Community Free Movement Protocol.
By Bernadette Khaduli