Domestic workers

Middle Eastern domestic workers now find solace in the human rights movement

When Kenyans from the diaspora visited Binti Mwanahamisi in a Saudi hospital. [Courtesy]

Kenyans are traveling to the Middle East in search of a better life, but it hasn’t been easy for everyone.

According to Kenyans who have lived in Saudi Arabia for more than 30 years, the disaster began around 2010 when cases of murder, rape and torture were reported. The majority of cases involved women.

Incidents reportedly increased when Kenyan women employed as domestic workers fled their employers’ homes and ended up on the streets. The women were branded as runaways and targeted by killers.

One of these victims was Irene. His body was found dumped on the side of the road and no one could identify him. She was buried in accordance with Saudi law which states that anyone not identified within 28 days must be buried.

His incident motivated Kenyans across the country to start a movement to come to the aid of their compatriots in distress. The Kenya Society in Saudi Arabia (KSSA) was established in 2012 and includes, among others, doctors, managers, accountants and communication experts.

Sayeed Mohammed, the chairman of the group, said the name has since been changed to Kenyan Diaspora Community in Saudi Arabia (KDCSA). “The group helps Kenyans in distress, helps teach Arabic to newcomers and helps bring dead bodies back into the country,” he said.

The group is one of the organizations of the Gulf countries (Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Bahrain, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman).

The increase in cases of unidentified Kenyans forced the KDCSA to start issuing IDs to Gulf Kenyans in 2014. Each Kenyan in Saudi Arabia paid 15 Saudi Riyals (Sh480) for the ID.

When foreign offenders are arrested and drafted for deportation, they are held in camps across the Gulf. The KDCSA, in collaboration with that of Bahrain and Dubai, approached their embassies to ask for amnesty to allow those registered for deportation to be sent back to their homes and not to the camps.

However, due to the increase in numbers, they were forced to contribute money for transportation. A Kenyan who wanted his daughter to go to the Middle East visited the camp once and saw their suffering.

Mr Mohammed said the Good Samaritans provide food and water to women in the camps. The organization has grown from nine initial members to over 50. Members volunteer to provide food and cash to people in need.

When Kenyans die, members must raise up to 12,000 riyals (Sh377,000) to cover morgue and transport costs. When the group was recognized, they faced another challenge. Binti Mwanahamisi, 40, was taken to hospital in serious condition.

Mr Mohammed said the hospital neglected her for nearly two years because she had no family. “We found her crawling in the hospital. She had injuries and had been in hospital for two years,” he said.

The organization raised funds for transportation and bought him a wheelchair.

JW, 40, was thrown from a moving vehicle by people who abducted her and wanted to sexually assault her in 2016. She says she was not in her good frame of mind when she fled his employer’s office.

“I was told that I called my children and the name of President Uhuru Kenyatta when I left the employment house,” she said, adding that in the process she found herself surrounded by thugs. However, with the intervention of KDCSA, she was saved.

JW is safe and back home.

According to Mr. Mohammed, other such groups have been formed to help domestic workers in distress.