Don't join any of these group ISIS, Al Qaida, Al Shabab and Boko haram these are human traffickers

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Curse of the Arabian Dream


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Photos/FILE  Every year thousands of Kenyan youth leave the country in search of employment opportunities in Saudi Arabia.
Photos/FILE Every year thousands of Kenyan youth leave the country in search of employment opportunities in Saudi Arabia.

Posted  Tuesday, July 19 2011 at 15:07
In Summary
Exodus to slavery: Every year thousands of Kenyan youth leave the country in search of employment opportunities in Saudi Arabia. And, as regularly as clockwork, a huge number of these return home with sad tales of torture, sexual abuse and outright enslavement. Recruiting agents say their mandate ends when they deliver the youth to their employers in the Gulf, but human rights organisations disagree and are calling on the government to end this exodus to modern day slavery

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At a glance, Saudi Arabia looks like most desert countries; sandy, windswept, sun-burnt and eerily sleepy.
But beneath that inhospitable terrain lie billions of tonnes of black gold, and it is the proceeds from this oil that have Kenyans making beelines at airports on the way out.
Like a magnet’s pull on anything metallic, the lure of the oil, the business prospects, the deals and the promise of a better life have become irresistible to many.
Young, jobless and tired of life in abject poverty, Kenyan youth have joined their counterparts from around the world in this ‘Hajj of Optimism’ to Saudi Arabia, leaving behind expectant families and friends.
But things are not as rosy. While most hope to change their lives for the better, to land better paying jobs and live the Arabic Dream, many return home heartbroken, misused, abused and stone-broke.
After years of doing all sorts of menial jobs that some would not even dare take back home, the cookie crumbles for them and they board the next flight home... that is if they are lucky enough.
Yet, illogically, parents are still sending their daughters to recruitment agencies that promise “well-paying” jobs; their sons to agents that swear by the sanctity of the Arabian Dream.
Most cheerfully wave goodbye to their friends and relatives at the airport, but, unfortunately, hundreds, even thousands, end up as house-helps, cooks, gardeners, security guards or drivers.
As interviews with some of the victims who fell for the “well paying job” line show, a good number of the happy, go-lucky souls that board the planes at Moi or Jomo Kenyatta international airports begin to regret the decision immediately they set foot in Saudi Arabia.
Their hosts waste no time in revealing the servitude they will have to endure, and that only after the recruits sign contracts with agents and their travel documents are confiscated to ensure those disgruntled with the menial jobs have little or no option of heading back home immediately.
Life soon takes a dreary routine characterised by poor pay, overwork, starvation and sexual harassment. Others suffer physical abuse and religious discrimination in the hands of their employers.
With no money to buy air tickets home and no relatives, friends or government officials to seek help from, the slaves toil on, regretting with each passing day their decision to take the flight to servitude.
For Subira Bakari, 26, who had been promised a well-paying job as a house-help, the shock came in the form of a cleaning job in a three-storey flat owned by her employer.
Her job entailed cleaning the scores of residential houses in the block and cooking for her employer’s family of six. She was not allowed to eat the food she prepared for her masters and had a separate kitchen where she cooked her own.
“My private kitchen had two sufurias, three bowls, three spoons and powdered milk. There was no food so I only took the milk,” she told DN2.
With time, and largely because of the rigorous work schedule that began at 5am to well past midnight every day, Subira grew weak, but she suffered on.
After a couple of weeks, she could not bear it any more and approached her agent seeking to return home.
But she was told that she had to work for six months or pay the agent Sh130,000 as refund for the cost of transporting her to Saudi Arabia.
Eventually, she sneaked a call to her brother in Mombasa through her employer’s misplaced phone.
The brother then contacted Muslim for Human Rights organisation, and Subira was flown back home on June 1, 2011 after a 26-day stay in slavery.

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For Mohammed Bakari, 31, a Muslim since his birth, the height of his mistreatment was when he was branded a Christian.
He says his boss stormed into his room on the third morning of his stay in Saudi Arabia calling him a non-believer.
“I cannot read Arabic script, but I know I have been recorded as a Christian in my travel identification documents,” he said last week, two days after he returned home with the help of Muhuri.
“They forced me to recite the Creed (conversion prayer) once again so that I could convert to Islam, taught me how to take ablution in preparation for prayers as well as how to say my daily prayers despite the fact that I am a born Muslim and had been taught all these things as a child,” said Mohammed bitterly.
Mohammed, a resident of Denyenye in Kwale, had flown to Saudi Arabia after his aunt introduced him to a recruiting agent, who promised him a better life abroad.  
He was recruited as a driver, but he was also forced to drill foundations in construction sites as well as mop of floors.
“They used to tempt me by ‘misplacing’ a lot of money in the car, and I knew they were waiting for me to make the slightest mistake and filch it so that they could subject me to the full wrath of Sharia law,” he says.
Mohammed feigned sickness and contacted his sister back home, who, through the help of Muhuri, organised his return.
He arrived at Jomo Kenyatta airport, Nairobi on Saturday morning after a two-month stay in the Gulf, as broke as a church mouse.
A 20-year-old woman who accompanied him to Saudia Arabia posing as his wife, and who also returned home after months of abuse (DN2 cannot reveal her identity as her real husband does not know the circumstances under which she travelled) says she had to cheat she was married to Mohammed to qualify for the search for greener pastures. 
Those going to Saudi must be aged 21, but this requirement is overlooked if one is accompanying a spouse.
When Mohamed started expressing his misgivings about his job, their employers turned the heat on her as well. 
They were denied food and had to steal left-overs. Whatever she picked outside, she brought to their house to share with Mohammed.
For Mariam, who also headed to Saudi Arabia hoping to earn good money as a house-help, things turned awry when the man of the household started making sexual advances towards her.
“He would ask me to serve him food in the bedroom, and every time I got there, I would find him stark naked. He would then grab my hand and ask me why I was pretending I did not know what was happening,” she said.
For her struggles against the advances, was burnt on the arm with a hot iron box. But burns or no burns, she is ready to go back if she gets a better job.
Salama Mbarak, a broker in the labour market, says agents are normally paid up to Sh400,000 per recruit by their would-be bosses to get them domestic workers.
They, in turn, source for desperate women, mostly through word of mouth, and pay them Sh3,000 for every girl they deliver and agrees to fly to the Gulf.
But now the agents are under fire from human rights groups, who label their trade as a form of human trafficking.
Muhuri Executive Director Hussein Khalid says such activities amount to human trafficking and calls on the ministries of Labour and Foreign Affairs to look into the matter.
“It is sad that the Kenyan Embassy in Saudi Arabia has turned a blind eye to such occurrences as more and more Kenyans travel to their enslavement. For how long will this go on?” asked Mr Khalid. 

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