Saudi Arabia hosts over eight million foreign workers, among them more than 40,000 Kenyans, whose numbers continue growing.
These workers have lived and worked in the Kingdom for decades and have never faced any sort of abuse or problem contrary to what has been alleged in news reports.
Slavery, forced labour and human trafficking are human rights abuses. Apart from being against the doctrines of Islamic teachings, which Saudi nationals subscribe to, these things are against the Kingdom’s labour laws, and strict disciplinary measures are taken against those found flouting the laws.
We have also adopted international and regional instruments for protection and promotion of labour rights, and assertions that some of our embassy staff are colluding with agencies locally to take Kenyans into bondage is a mockery of our nation’s integrity and diplomatic relations.
Our embassy has never, at any one point, dealt with individuals in issuing of work visas; we deal only with accredited recruiting agencies, and all transactions are done in line with Kenyan laws on employment, and the international labour laws.
It is unfortunate that the story was done from the point of view of the purported victims, who condemned Saudi employers without seeking the opinion of anyone else or seeking our side of the story.
Most of the stories of returnees from Saudi Arabia we as an embassy have heard through the press. The purported victims have never filed any official complaint with the embassy to enable us investigate them, making the allegations highly suspect.
For the few cases, which have been reported to the authorities and to us after thorough investigations, they have been found to be mere allegations and we are ready to give more information on this.
Surprisingly, our embassy continues to issue over 17,000 work visas annually to Kenyans who join the Saudi work force, meaning the work conditions are conducive, and Saudi employers greatly appreciative of the services offered by Kenyan workers.
However, we cannot completely rule out some incidents of abuse, and if they do happen, the Saudi laws are clear and the perpetrators, irrespective of their social standing, are made accountable for their inhumane actions.
As a development partner to Kenya, our main objective is to see Kenya growing beyond providing financial and humanitarian assistance.
We are committed to seeing Kenya meet its Millennium Development Goals, among them providing jobs to its youth.
This is the reason why we will continue providing them alternative employment opportunities.
Mr Al Shamrani is the Press Attaché, Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, Nairobi.