Firms face Sh10m fine for abuse on overseas workers

Swarup Mishra Pic

Dr Swarup Mishra. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Recruitment agencies involved in deploying Kenyans to fake or slave-like jobs overseas face a Sh10 million fine or a five-year imprisonment if MPs approve a new Bill that seeks to protect migrant workers from abuse.

The Overseas Workers Bill, 2021 makes it an offence for any person who recruits for non-existent work or changes the job description midstream without the knowledge of the emigrants.

Employers or recruitment agencies that deploy workers who have not undergone pre-departure training will also face stiff penalties.

“A person who withhold from or denies documents for travel to applicants or deducts the cost of insurance fees, premiums or other insurance related charges from the wages of an overseas worker commits an offence and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding ten million shillings or, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or to both,” the Bill states.

The Bill, sponsored by Kesses MP Swarup Mishra, comes at a time when Kenya has recorded a high number of deaths and distressed citizens, majority of whom are young and vulnerable women.

The country recorded 93 deaths in the past three years from Kenyans working in the Middle East.

The Bill, which is set for introduction in the National Assembly follows Ministry of Foreign Affairs recommendation for a temporary ban of recruitment and export of domestic workers to Saudi Arabia until adequate protection measures are put in place.

The Labour Ministry and the National Employment Authority have a mandate to ensure protection of Kenyan workers abroad.

The Bill seeks to regulate overseas workers, obligations of such workers, establish safe houses for migrants in distress and an Overseas Workers Fund.

The proposed fund will be used to provide assistance and welfare services to overseas workers including paying for death, disability, and burial benefits.

It will also be used for repatriating workers in distress including paying for assistance on matters relating to logistics or paying remains of a deceased overseas worker.

The safe houses will be opened on a 24-hour basis including weekends and public holidays to assist affected overseas workers and their families.

They will also get assistance in enforcement of contractual obligations by agencies and other entities.