NEWS: Job Offers That Are A Con

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Subject: NEWS: Job Offers That Are A Con
From: Jyothi Kanics (jkanics@igc.apc.org)
Date: Thu Jan 07 1999 - 17:05:51 EST


Job Offers That Are A Con
The Nation (Kenya), January 6, 1999

Nairobi - Thousands of Kenyan job seekers have over the years been assisted
by foreign employment agents to secure jobs abroad.

But are the agents real? Information from the Arabian Embassy indicates
that more than 25,000 Kenyans are living and working in Arabia some under
inhuman and degrading conditions.

While the number appears big the government does not know the exact number
of its citizens working abroad.

The chairman of the National Population Environmental Development Agency,
Prof. Elias Ayiemba, talked of his difficulty in getting data from the
labour ministry when preparing a paper on emigration and immigration of
labour in Kenya.

A sketchy analysis from the ministry showed that some 230 Kenyans were
working abroad.

"Majority of emigrants works as salesmen, transport agents, farm workers,
hair dressers and footballers; a good number is in Saudi Arabia, Zanzibar,
Dubai and Tanzania," says Prof. Ayiemba.

It is believed that close to 300,000 Kenyans are living and working abroad.

Over the last 10 years, the country has witnessed the mushrooming of
foreign employment agencies, operating from posh offices and dungeons in
the city.

Although some agencies have lived up to their expectations, many are bogus
and have ripped off job seekers.

A leading employment agent Mr. Swaleh Abdalla of Swadalla Agencies, says
only four employment bureaus are sanctioned by the government but many
unofficial ones were in operation.

"These are the ones which are usually in the news or in court accused of
conning job seekers," says Mr. Abdalla.

Mr. Abdalla worked with the Saudi Embassy before starting his private work
as a commission agent on overseas job recruitment.

Mr. Abdalla says many Kenyans who have landed jobs through bogus agents in
the Middle East are leading lives of slavery and misery.

"For these Kenyans, even coming back home after realising that they have
been duped is not easy; they find themselves enslaved, and hence forced to
go for degrading jobs," says Mr. Abdalla.

He said before a job seeker is shipped out, he must enter into a binding
agreement with the agent, the potential employer and a labour officer.

The job seeker pays a non-refundable Sh2,000 processing fee.

Once the deal is sealed, the employer sends tickets and waits for the
seeker at the point of entry. But if the number is big, then the agent
accompanies them.

Mr. Swadala and colleagues Mr. Mohammed Muli and Mr. Abud Sheobe say they
have facilitated more than 50,000 Kenyans to get jobs abroad.

An Assistant Commissioner of Labour, Mr. Abisai Ambenge, says circumstances
prevailing in the country make it difficult for Kenyans to get employment
and thus the desire to seek employment abroad.

The three say the job agencies should not take the advantage and subject
job seekers to a life of misery abroad.

He says the Employment Act is clear on the conditions to be met before one
goes abroad in search of employment.

"The contract of employment shall be made in Kenya and must be signed by
the parties and attested to by a labour officer; anything contrary to this
is criminal and risks a fine or imprisonment," explains Mr. Ambenge.

The Director of Employment in the Ministry of Labour, Mr. Oduor Otieno,
said successful management of foreign employment services can be made
efficient by establishing a steering committee.

"The Immigration Department, the ministries of education, finance and
foreign affairs and the chamber of commerce among others should comprise
the committee," says Mr. Otieno.

On his part an Assistant Director of Employment, Mr. Elijah Achoch, says
Kenyan embassies and consulates should have commercial and immigration
attaches who would be responsible for matters relating to employment and
labour.

Although the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has
on occasions repatriated Kenyan employees stranded in various countries,
the role has been hampered by lack of competent personnel to deal with
labour complaints.

Mr. Achoch says the embassies should assist agents to solicit for jobs an
undertake marketing missions and expand the employment opportunities abroad.

Prof. Ayiemba says the government should put in place immigration and
emigration policies to enable it achieve a balance between the two types.

"International labour migration of unskilled labour is of a temporary
nature; this type of migration needs international agreements and
solutions," says Prof. Ayiemba.

The principal economist in the Ministry of Labour, Mr. Samson Machuka,
feels the situation can be rectified if the ministry is empowered to deal
with foreign employment administration and control of entry permits,
applications, registration licensing regulations of private employment
agents and bureaus and the processing and storage of labour information.

He says the foreign affairs ministry should strengthen the promotional and
marketing services through the missions abroad, help monitor and review
labour market changes and update the labour market information.

"It should also enter into bilateral agreement with countries absorbing
Kenyan workers with a view to harmonising taxation procedures," he adds.


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