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Treatment of Kenyan Workers in Saudi Arabia Back in the Spotlight

Rights groups have expressed concern that not enough has been done to address the alleged mistreatment of domestic workers in Gulf states, such as Saudi Arabia, after the Kenyan government moved to secure work opportunities abroad for its citizens. While there is no recent, publicly available data on Kenyan migrant worker deaths, the country’s foreign ministry reported that at least 89 Kenyans, most of whom were domestic workers, lost their lives in Saudi Arabia between 2020 and 2021. Kituo cha Sheria and another rights group, Hakijamii, are supporting litigation against the Kenyan government by nearly a dozen former domestic workers who previously worked in Gulf states, who claim that the government failed to take proper measures to protect them from “modern-day slavery and human trafficking”. Rights groups say the Kenyan government should take steps to protect workers from the kafala system – a work-sponsorship system used in many Gulf countries including Saudi Arabia, which gives employers enormous control over workers’ immigration and employment status.