Cotu, Qatar ministers in labour talks

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2022 06:01 | By
Trade unionist Francis Atwoli has declared that the 2022 polls will be postponed if the courts don't give a favorable judgement on the Building Bridges Initiative.
COTU boss Francis Atwoli. PHOTO/Courtesy

Kenyan workers in Qatar and the Gulf States have a reason to smile after Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) Secretary-General Francis Atwoli met Qatar’s Labour Minister to address human rights violations by local employers.

The meeting resolved to, among other measures, cancel licences of rogue employment agencies involved in the recruitment of workers seeking new opportunities in the Gulf states.

Atwoli held talks with the Qatar administration led by the Labour Minister, Dr Ali Samikh, following an upsurge of complaints on the sad plight of Kenyan workers.

Another meeting has been planned to establish a structured dialogue with the Qatari authorities on the rights and conditions of African workers in that country and the region. Safety of Kenyans

“We agreed that there was a need to ensure the safety of Kenyans, especially domestic workers, in Qatar by doing away with employment agencies that have been used to sneak in Kenyans,” said Atwoli.

At the same time, Samikh noted that they are currently in the process of cancelling the operations of Kenyan-owned employment agencies which have been blamed for violation of migrants’ rights.

So far, at least 12 licences have been cancelled as details emerge that some agencies are owned and operated by unscrupulous government officials.

“Just like the Philippines, the Kenyan Government should establish government-to-government relations with Qatar so that negotiations on the terms and conditions of Kenyan workers in Qatar are overseen by the Government, and not by agencies,” said Samikh.

Late last year, Atwoli urged the Ministry of Labour to ban Kenyan workers from seeking employment in the Middle East, terming the working conditions as tantamount to slavery. He also called for the closure of agencies taking Kenyans to Arabic nations, saying several Kenyans had been killed and others mistreated abroad.

However, Labour Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui said the Government would not stop people from seeking greener pastures despite abuses in the Arab nations.

In 2020, some 1,025 Kenyans were in distress in the region compared with 883 in 2019, according to the Foreign Ministry. And in 2019-2021, 89 Kenyans — more than half of them female — died in the Gulf nations. The cause of death was mainly given as cardiac arrest, natural death or suicide

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