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In this special edition of our newsletter we share some 2022 highlights and analysis of Labour Migration in Kenya and the plight of Kenyan Migrant Workers in the Middle East over the past year.

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In September 2022, the story of Diana Chepkemoi, a Kenyan migrant domestic worker in severe distress in Saudi Arabia gained extensive attention on social media platforms. As a result of this online traction, Diana was successfully repatriated back to Kenya surviving the horrific abuse and exploitation that she had suffered from her employers. Diana's story is emblematic of the Labour Migration discourse in Kenya during the past year. In 2022, we witnessed numerous coverage of distress stories from Kenyan Migrant Workers in the Middle East or from their relatives. Many of them followed the same patterns; they leave Kenya for greener pastures abroad, they arrive at their employer's home, employer becomes abusive, they contact their recruitment agency and find no help, they or their relative raise distress calls online; if they are fortunate they escape and end up in detention and subsequently get deported or in other worse cases, they lose contact with their kin who later find out their relative has passed away under unclear circumstances. Such is the story of Stella Nafula, Holiness Wawuda, Pauline Wachira, and Miriam Njeri who met a tragic end while employed abroad.

Year after year, we are enraged and saddened by these stories but what is even more unfortunate is that inspite of this devastating trend, very few labour migration protection mechanisms have been implemented robustly to protect every Kenyan Migrant Worker abroad. In the past year, various branches of government have released reports on this isssue that largely state the same conclusions or recommend reforms and policy changes that are not followed through or strengthened once implemented. In June 2022, the Ministry of labour announced that KES 70 million had already been set aside to establish two safe houses for Kenyan Workers in distress in Saudi Arabia where numerous distress calls and unclear workers' deaths were reported. Besides a reiteration by the new Cabinet Secretary for Labour before the Senate in November, there has been no further update since this announcement. This is sadly a common pattern; over the past few years many reforms and recommendations have been put forward such as establishing a migrant welfare fund, passing the labour migration bill, strengthening NEA to deal with rogue recruitment agencies but robust implementation remains a huge barrier.

Inspite of the above, the number of Kenyans migrating to the Middle East for employment has continued to rise owing to the economic pressures in 2022. Increased cost of living post pandemic and increasing unemployment and underemployment have left Kenyans with no choice but to look for better economic prospects abroad. This pattern is also reflected in the increase in remittances from the Kenyan diaspora during the past year. According to the Central Bank of Kenya, in 2022 Kenyans remitted an average of around $333,689,000 every month. This means that remitances remains a critical source of revenue for the Kenyan economy yet the conditions of Kenyan Workers abroad remain precarious. In 2023, we must do more to advocate for robust implementation of protection mechanisms for Kenyan Migrant Workers. We must continue to hold to account the Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs, the Senate Committee on Labour and Social Welfare, the National Assembly Committee on Diapora Affairs and Migrant Workers and National Employment Authority; who all have a mandate and a responsibility in ensuring every Kenyan Migrant Worker is valued and protected.
TOP HIGHLIGHTS OF 2022
1. Kenyan Migrant Workers protests in Lebanon
At the beginning of the year, Kenyan Migrant Workers gathered outside the Kenyan consulate in Beirut to continue protesting. Many of the women had been recruited under the Kafala system as domestci workers and had found themselves in exploitative and abusive conditions from their employers. They were now seeking support with repatriation back to Kenya. In Lebanon, migrant workers cannot leave an employer without their permission and they need an exit permit. If they escape from an employer, they lose their status and become undocumented leaving them in a more precarious position. In the past two years, there has been an increase in the number of Kenyans moving to Lebanon for employment as domestic workers. 
2. Emerging trends in the Domestic Labour Space in Lebanon
In February, Anti Racism Movement (ARM), released a report exploring the emerging trends in the domestic labour market in Lebanon in the face of the economic crisis, Beirut explosion and increasing reliance on migrant domestic workers. One of the patterns explored was the emergence of freelance self employed domestic workers owing to the massive layoffs that meant that households were no longer able to afford paying live-in migrant domestic workers. 
3. IOM published their 5 year country strategy with Labour Migration as a key thematic area
In March, IOM Kenya published their 5 year strategy around key Migration themes in Kenya. One of the themes explored in the report was around Labour Mobility and Development focusing on ethical recruitment, establishing a singular labour  migration policy, skills for migration, capacity strengthening initiatives for Labour Attachés, etc. This has been evident through the various workshops and convenings that IOM Kenya has engaged in in the past year. You can read the full strategy here.
4. 84 stranded Kenyan Migrant Workers repatriated from Lebanon through IOM
In May, IOM reported that they had repatriated around 84 Kenyan migrant workers from Lebanon through their Voluntary Humanitarian Return Programme. Many were migrant domestic workers who had found themselves jobless, homeless and stranded outside the consulate in Beirut. Since the beginning of the year, these workers had been involved in a series of protests and sit-ins outside the consulate demanding repatriation assistance. 
5. Oversight Mechanism to address unethical recruitment & human trafficking launched
In June, the Ministry of Labour with support of IOM launched an Oversight Mechanism and Community Feedback Mechanism  that are aimed at addressing issues of unethical recruitment by Private Employement Recruitment Agencies in Kenya. The mechanisms will be a platform where unethical and illegal practices by PEAs can be identified and monitored.
6. Toll free helpline and Distress reporting form launched by NEA
In June, National Employment Authority (NEA) launched a toll free helpline 0800222223 and online distress reporting tool on their NEAIMS platforms for Kenyan Migrant Workers to utilise when stranded in abusive or exploitative conditions abroad. The two tools can also be used to report unethical recruitment agencies and practices.
7. COTU-K visit to Lebanon to discuss plight of Kenyan Workers
In July, Trade Union body, COTU-K representatives (Rose Omamo, Adams Barasa and Teresa Wabuko) visited Lebanon to explore the challenges facing Migrant Domestic Workers in the country. They also met with Lebanon's umbrella Trade Union body, National Federation of Worker and Employee Trade Unions (FENASOL), to discuss the need to ratify ILO conventions Private Employment Agencies Convention, 1997 (No. 181) and the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189) and better compliance with the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), which has been ratified by both Kenya and Lebanon.
8. Ombudsman report into plight of Kenyans in Saudi Arabia
In September, the Commission on Administrative Justice (Ombudsman) released its report following an investigation into the plight of Kenyan Migrant Workers in Saudi Arabia. In the report, it made several recommendations to the office of the President and all stakeholders involved in the recruitment and management of migrant domestic workers in order to enhance inter-agency collaboration among stakeholders, professionalise the industry while promoting and protecting the rights of Kenyan Migrant workers.
9. KEWOPA called for ban on deployment of domestic workers to the Middle East
In October, Kenyan Women Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA) called for the government to ban the deployment of Kenyan domestic workers to the Middle East until protection measures are taken. They urged for an intensive multi-sectoral engagement with Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Interior, Immigration, Ministry of Labour and Social Protection to substantially work on a long term solution for protection of Kenyan Migrant workers in particular women domestic workers.
10. New Committee for Migrant Workers
In November,  a new Select Committee on Diaspora and Migrant Workers was established in the Kenyan National Asssembly. The 15 member commitee will deal with matters relating to the welfare of Kenyan Migrant Workers in response with increased distress calls, complaints and deaths of workers in Middle Eastern Countries
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Send Us Home Kenya is a non governmental organisation supporting the return, reintegration and advocacy of Kenyan Migrant Workers in Middle Eastern countries.
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