East Africa: Little optimism that newly introduced regulation of recruitment agencies will reduce human trafficking to the Gulf region

Author: Jillian Keenan & Njeri Rugene, Bhekisisa (South Africa), Published on: 11 November 2019

"‘They see us as slaves’: Domestic helpers head for the Gulf despite their fears of sexual abuse"

In a busy recruitment agency in Nairobi’s central business district, dozens of women line the halls. All hope that today they will secure a job as a domestic worker in the Gulf states, cooking, cleaning and caring for another family thousands of miles from their own homes. Pamela Mbogo* is one of them...Yet, this time, Mbogo believes it will be different. “The first time I went, I went in an illegal, chaotic situation through brokers who did not prepare us for what lay ahead,” says Mbogo. “I am more confident this time. I believe all will be well.” Her confidence comes from a raft of legal reforms that Kenya has recently put in place to try to make it safe for women to travel to the Gulf to work...

But Edith Murogo, director of the CDTD, worries that governments will not keep to their side of the bargain. “That is my headache. I have prepared my girls very well. They are ready for the market,” says Murogo. “But is that market ready for them? Are they going to respect the rules? Are their governments ready to hold [abusers] accountable?”...Paul Adhoch, the executive director of Trace Kenya, a Mombasa-based counter-trafficking NGO...and his colleagues at Trace are worried that, despite repeated requests, the government has not made the content of the new bilateral agreements with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE available to NGOs or to the public...Adhoch warns that “rogue brokers” have already emerged to circumvent the new regulations. “They say: ‘You don’t want to wait for a training course, an official visa, a passport? Pay me, and I can get you to the Middle East right now’,” he says. “These rogue labour brokers traffick workers abroad with fake visas, false promises, and no way to get home.”

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