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Africa – Kenya presses for better job deals for Africans in the Gulf

21 November 2013

The poor treatment of migrant workers from Africa across the Arab states was at the top of the agenda for the third Africa-Arab summit held this week in Kuwait. The Arabian job market’s unprecedented demand for workers has gradually turned into a crisis from some African states, reports PAN Africa (PANA).

Amina Mohamed, Kenya’s Foreign Cabinet Secretary, said: “We want those who are coming to work [in Kuwait] and indeed the entire Arab [world] to have decent wages, be always accounted for, and have better working environment.”  

Ethiopia, one of Africa’s most populous nations, banned foreign travel especially to the Arabian Gulf states in the days preceding the Summit. Kenya, Ethiopia’s neighbour, is not currently considering a similar ban, but diplomats have asked potential migrants to avoid traveling to the Gulf States unless on expatriate terms of employment.

Ms Mohamed said in a statement: “We want to discuss ways of streamlining immigration issues that will see Kenyans seeking jobs in the Arabian countries [will] have decent wages.”

Kenya has an estimated 100,000 migrant workers currently in the Gulf States; including Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Saudi Arabia alone hosts 7.5 million migrant workers, mostly from Africa and India. At least 600,000 workers in the region are considered to be victims of human trafficking rings. An immigration crackdown in Saudi Arabia left several foreign workers stranded or in limbo, igniting clashes between local Police and the migrants.

Ethiopia, meanwhile, is understood to have dispatched a delegation to oversee the safe and dignified return of its migrant citizens.

Jan Eliasson, the UN Deputy Secretary-General, said while attending the Summit: “The scenes from the drowning of a ship filled with migrants is a tragic reminder of desperate people without jobs who are paying money to get into boats then drowning,”

UN officials are increasingly worried about the ‘criminalisation of migration’ across Africa. Unable to create jobs, countries make border crossings illegal, but this is thought to worsen the crisis. UN agencies cite the lack of labour regulations as a key factor contributing to the poor treatment of illegal workers.

Unable to curb the mass exodus of workers, many countries have resorted to stiffer controls on employment agencies responsible for shipping migrant workers under lopsided employment contracts.

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