Saturday, June 22, 2024

Amakove: Inside murky agency business of sending girls to Arab countries

The unfortunate story of Chepkemoi, a Kenyan girl who was enslaved in Saudi Arabia, raised focus and concern on the murky business of agents who send unsuspecting Kenyan girls to work in Arab countries in the Middle East.

This agency business is wired in secrecy, with agents going the extra mile to ensure that they are protected from prosecution in the event things go awry as they have done in the case of Chepkemoi. Apparently, desperate girls heading to work in Arab nations are even forced to sign indemnity forms.

Co-Op post

Whereas no agency will willingly speak on how they do business, one Kenyan has spoken up about how this business operates. The Kenyan who has lifted the lid on this dark business is Dr. Amakove Wala. Here is what she has said on the business:

“About the sad situation of our young girls and women going to the Middle East for domestic work, let me share the insights I got when I tried to see the possibility of extending my own business Nyarai, a local domestic worker agency into this territory.


I will stick with nannies since I am yet to see men who have gone for casual labour being brought back dead or unwell.

First of all, all the leads I tried to get to understand the business were skeptical about me. Some confessed that they thought I was undercover detective or a reporter. I finally got one brave soul who sat me down and told me the process as she knew it.

1). The agency has to get a licence from government (some state corporation that I forget). This licence costs Ksh. 500,000 per year at the time. Getting it included greasing some hands to fast track since it wasn’t a guarantee.

2). Get a counterpart agency from the Middle East countries. Most of the demand for work is from Saudi Arabia which has the highest cases of maltreatment. The Dubai and Qatar also have work opportunities but not in terms of the numbers from Saudi. Unfortunately, many of the workers are tricked that the jobs they are going to are in the latter countries only to end up in Saudi Arabia.

Anger, shock over Kenyan girl enslaved in Saudi Arabia

3). Get an order from the counterpart agency. The order is usually like a hundred or so workers. Mostly nannies. If you have a good rapport with the agency, and it’s the first time, they pay you upfront like 50%. This money is around 250K per worker so you need to reduce your costs as an agency as much as possible in order to maximise on profit.

4). Get the nannies from various “brokers”. We have people whose sole job is to convince young women especially from the rural areas about abundant possibilities in the Gulf countries. Many of these promises are based on half truths. Some are forced to part with money to get their women “selected”. The women are then “sold” to the agency for as little as Ksh. 10,000 per head. Agencies also source from usual walk in clients. Having run my local domestic worker agency, I know we have so many women desperate for jobs.

5). Get the nannies into a NITA certified training for a month. The training centres are few and majority are controlled by some big names. You have to use these accredited training centres as a registered agency. They are boarding facilities where they undergo rigorous training on housekeeping and the likes. Each training per nanny costs Ksh. 30,000. Some nannies drop out of this training so as a business you go at a loss. NITA then gives them a test and they have to pass. If they fail, once more you go at a loss.

Over 10,000 Kenyans seeking jobs in Saudi Arabia stranded in Nairobi

6). Once they pass, they need to undergo a medical check up. This is only offered by one institution located in Nairobi and owned by the Middle East guys. No other institution can carry out the medical tests. Cost was around 12K per head. Includes HIV test and Chest Xrays amongst others. Only those who are “clean” get to be accepted. So what some agencies do is that they test the ladies independently before training because again, you go at a loss if she fails the medical test .

7). As all this is going on, you need to apply for a passport for them. Again, another source of corruption is fast tracking the passport process. When passports are out, you better hold on to them as an agency since we have another set of “brokers” whose job is to wait for the ladies at the medical institution and “convince” them that they have better offers than what your agency was going to offer. So if the lady “defects”, there goes your investment in sourcing, training and medicals!

8). Remember a lady can change their mind at any one point. I was told of some ladies who when they learnt there wasn’t going to be ugali in the Middle East, opted to stay at home. So all this weeks of preparation go to waste. The trend is that ladies from certain regions of the country are easier to work with because of their mindset on going to work to make money and also they are amiable to a different cuisine.

9). Sending them off to the Gulf countries. One has to prepare them too for immigration questions. A few have been turned away from immigration when they failed to answer questions on their destinations. Others just panicked and refused to board the flight. So again, another loss to the agency.

10). The nannies sign up to a 2 year contract (without an option of coming back home). Some employers or agencies in the Gulf confiscate their passports and thus tie them down to a life of slavery. For a few, they manage to get very warm families. There are two types of jobs: live in with families and casual workers. For the latter, the nannies are placed in dorm like institutions and ferried by shuttles to their various workplaces. The pay they get is often around Ksh. 25,000 and not the 100K that many are promised.

Disclaimer: this is information received from one source. I have no evidence and as such is not admissible on a court of law. The source remains confidential given the high risk business with lots of “big people” involved.

But after all that, I decided it is not worth my while as a business as it is a thinly veiled form of human trafficking. I chose to remain with domestic placements.”





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