Senator Crystal Asige has introduced a comprehensive legislative proposal aimed at establishing robust regulations for overseas recruiters facilitating the employment of Kenyan citizens. The National Employment Authority (Amendment) Bill 2023, championed by Senator Asige, seeks to mandate all agencies and recruiters to obtain a license before commencing operations.
Under the proposed legislation, recruiters must apply for a license with the relevant agency, providing details on the nature of their operations, business premises, and the destination countries for the recruited employees. In addition, recruiters will be required to furnish indemnity cover for employees to ensure their protection while working overseas.
Furthermore, recruiters will be obligated to contribute to a prescribed levy, the proceeds of which will be allocated for emergency repatriation of overseas workers. This fund will also cover the transportation of a worker’s remains to Kenya in case of unfortunate incidents while abroad.
As part of the regulatory framework, each recruiter will be mandated to publish a comprehensive report to be submitted to the National Employment Authority (NEA). This report should encompass details on persons employed, employment status, available vacancies, and other pertinent information as stipulated by the NEA.
Simultaneously, the NEA will play a pivotal role in fostering transparency. The agency will publish a list of licensed recruiters in the Kenya Gazette, enhancing accountability and awareness. Additionally, the body will maintain a register of all recruiters granted either a full or conditional license, strengthening regulatory oversight.
“The authority shall, to the best of its ability, facilitate the deployment of Kenyan workers only to countries where the rights of Kenyan migrant workers are protected,” emphasizes a section of the proposed bill, pointing out the commitment to safeguarding the rights and well-being of Kenyan workers abroad.
Senator Asige highlighted the substantial contribution of Kenyans working overseas to the country’s economy, with annual remittances estimated to exceed Ksh4 billion. This legislation seeks to establish a framework that not only protects the rights of Kenyan workers but also ensures the responsible operation of recruitment agencies.
The bill responds to concerns raised by the Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU) last year, urging the government to prohibit employment agencies sending migrant workers to Saudi Arabia. COTU’s Secretary-General, Mr. Atwoli, advocated for a similar approach to the ban imposed by the first government under former President Mwai Kibaki.
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The then Foreign and Diaspora Affairs Cabinet Secretary Dr. Alfred Mutua highlighted the challenges faced by Kenyan migrant workers in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States, attributing these issues to unregulated recruitment agencies in Kenya. In response, he engaged in talks with senior Saudi government officials to address the plight of abused workers and highlighted the need to rectify systemic flaws and corruption in the recruitment process.