Agency Helps Kenya’s Returning Abused Workers Reintegrate


Laborers from Kenya say they have endured abuse in the Middle East, often at the hands of their employers. But an aid agency is offering them a chance to rebuild their lives in Kenya. Hundreds of survivors of forced labor are now able to access support offered by a group that offers a soft landing for those in need.

Faith Murunga’s store on the outskirts of Kenya’s capital is open for business. It has been barely six months old in operation, helping her put food on her family’s table.

It isn’t what she had anticipated when she left Kenya in 2019 for work in Saudi Arabia, a popular work destination for those unable to find jobs in Kenya. She says what she was promised as she emigrated and what she found there were worlds apart.

She says, the boss came and told me that as long as I agreed to travel to their country, I must do each and every chore. He said, I would not have the right to complain. They had paid a lot of money to buy me. I was therefore their property,” Murunga said.

During her two years of service in Saudi Arabia, Murunga suffered both emotional and physical abuse at the hands of her employer, until a good Samaritan came to her aid and facilitated her return to Kenya.

Back home, she received help from Haart Kenya, an organization that fights human trafficking and helps people like Faith.

Since Haart Kenya was formed in 2010, the organization has helped more than 700 survivors of forced labor who have come home scarred.

Mercy Atieno, the organization’s outreach manager, says the survivors, 80% of them women, have varying degrees of trauma when they seek help.

“When a survivor comes to us, they are distressed. Some of them appear abused. They don’t know what to do next and you find someone who does not know where to start, they do not have a house, they don’t want to go back home because everyone knows they went abroad, so they are expecting they will come with something,” Atieno said.

The organization takes in survivors of forced labor and other work-related abuses and helps them rebuild their lives through counseling, training, and supporting their ability to make a living. Mercy Atieno explains.

“This process is a very participatory process, where together with the case worker and the survivor, charting ways through which they are going to work together for proper rehabilitation, so the survivor has a voice and they actually say no to a service, because our services are individualized, and they are survivor-centered,” Atieno said.

The Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Educational Institutions, Hospitals and Allied Workers, or KUDHEIHA, the union that fights for the rights of workers, says the migration of workers to the Middle East is likely to continue as long as Kenya’s 10% unemployment rate stays as high as it is.

Albert Njeru, the union’s general secretary, advises those seeking work as unskilled labor abroad to be extra vigilant.

“Seek for proper information, consult widely, and before you go get it right, don’t go where you can see black spots,” Njeru said.

Haart Kenya’s leadership says it is ready to handle cases like Faith’s as they appear. For now, Faith says she is grateful for another chance at life, away from the abuse she suffered in a foreign land.

Source: Voice of America

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