Labour Cabinet Secretary, Simon Chelugui, was at pains to explain why the government has been unable or reluctant to address the plight of Kenyans working in the Middle East.
The JKLive TV show, in which the CS was appearing, was animated by fireworks after two ladies who previously worked in Saudi Arabia, confronted the CS as he tried to down play their hardships in the Arab country.
The two ladies narrated the torture and hardships they underwent while working in Saudi Arabia as house helps.
While appearing on the popular Citizen TV show hosted by Jeff Koinange on Wednesday, August 19, the two ladies, Faith Murunga and Lorna Jerop, rubbished Chelugui’s explanation that the government as well as Kenyan agents had the best interests of those working in Saudi at heart.
Addressing the CS directly, the two ladies noted that the recruiting agents and the Kenyan Embassy in Saudi Arabia often ignored plights by the girls who were being tortured in the foreign country.
Murunga narrated that she was tortured during her stay in Saudi, to a point that she had to run away for her safety.
She noted that she was subjected to regular assaults and at one point, her hand was burnt with hot water, but her complains were often ignored by the Embassy and recruiting agents.
She further disclosed that throughout her stay, she only found solace in the toilet, which is where she recorded a viral video in 2020 narrating her ordeal.
“At some point, I thought I would die. My boss in Saudi Arabia poured hot water on my arm and that’s why I have this burn. I know many Kenyans who have died in Saudi Arabia. If the government does not take action, many more will die,” narrated Murunga.
“When the report got out, they forced me to say that I burnt myself. After being burnt, I went to the police station where I was forced to confess that I burnt myself. I got no support from any Kenyan official in Saudi Arabia.”
She further noted that she was often subjected to physical assault by her employer for mundane reasons like not understanding their language when being sent.
“I went through hell. One time I was beaten so bad after my boss asked me to bring a cup and I brought a spoon, yet I did not understand the language. I used to get one meal a day and that is strong tea,” she added.
Jerop, on the other hand, revealed that as much as her stay was largely peaceful, she encountered instances where she was reminded that she was owned by the host family who paid Ksh300,000 to have her sent there as a house help.
During the panel discussion, Chelugui attempted to absorb the government of any blame to an extent of accusing victims of torture of failure to honour their contracts with employers in the Saudi Kingdom.
“As a government, we acknowledge the challenges being faced by our people seeking livelihoods in the Middle East. We negotiated our existing bilateral labour agreement. I intend to visit Saudi Arabia possibly within the next 30 days,” stated Chelugui.
“Over 200 Kenyans are on deportation or transit back home driven by different factors. Some have run away from their previous contracts and they have been reported to the authorities.”
He further disputed that over 40 Kenyans had died in the past one year, arguing that the factual record was 97 in the past three years.
Chelugui also claimed that registered agencies were fulfilling their duties, a statement that was vehemently denied by the two survivors.
“You are not on the ground!” Lorna Jerop and Faith Murunga, the victims of human abuse in Saudi Arabia, lectured the Labour CS during the live broadcast.
“The way I see you, Mr CS, you cannot handle Saudi. That is the plain truth. We should add people on the ground,” added Lorna.
The heated discussion, however, culminated into the CS inviting the two ladies to his office to share their experiences ahead of a planned intermediary meeting in Saudi Arabia.
“I want to assure any Kenyan working locally or abroad that their lives are important. I believe the future is bright and we assure these ladies of their safety and comfort in Saudi Arabia,” noted Chelugui.
There are over 97,000 Kenyans working and living in Saudi Arabia.