Connect with us

Global Affairs

‘Modern-day slavery’: Kenyan domestic workers tell of abuse in Saudi Arabia | Domestic workers

Avatar

Published

on

When Joy Simiyu left Kenya for a new job as a domestic worker in Saudi Arabia, she believed her life was about to take a turn for the better. While the 25-year-old had never envisioned herself making a living through housework, her dreams had grown distant after she dropped out of college due to financial pressure.

“I was desperate for a job,” said Simiyu, one of a growing number of Kenyans who travel to the Gulf to seek work, pushed out by the country’s high unemployment rates.

But within months, Simiyu was back in Kenya, with a harrowing but familiar tale of employer abuse, cautioning others against travelling to Saudi Arabia for work.

Saudi Arabia is known for its poor labour and human rights record, and is widely considered one of the most dangerous places to work in the world. Employers in the Gulf state have been dogged by allegations of physically, mentally and sexually abusing their migrant housekeepers for years; claims which continue to resurface.

In Kenya, reports of abuse sparked fresh outrage earlier this month when online photos of a young Saudi-based Kenyan worker, Diana Chepkemoi, looking frail went viral, along with claims that she was facing employer abuse and neglect. Under growing pressure from the public, the government repatriated her and a few other domestic workers facing a similar plight in the Gulf state, including Simiyu.

Diana Chepkemoi arriving in Kenya after being repatriated from Saudi Arabia following claims of abuse and neglect by her employer.
Diana Chepkemoi arriving in Kenya after being repatriated from Saudi Arabia following claims of abuse and neglect by her employer. Photograph: #BringBackDianaChepkemoi

Simiyu says that she faced a torrent of abuse while in Saudi Arabia – that she was forced to work in multiple homes, and deprived of food and rest. She also claims her employer would withhold her wages, claiming that she was “not doing enough work to demand pay”, or that she would be paid in due course since “she was not going nowhere”.

“It’s modern-day slavery,” said Fred Ojiro of Haki Africa, a Mombasa-based human rights organisation that advocates for the rights of workers across the continent.

Until just a few years ago, Saudi Arabia’s kafala system required housekeepers to gain permission from their employer if they wanted to change jobs or leave the country. Rights groups say this policy left them vulnerable to abuse.

This year alone, Haki Africa has received more than 51 complaints of abuse from Kenyan domestic workers based in Saudi Arabia, several videos of distressed women asking for help, and at least 10 new calls for help after reports of abuse resurfaced in September.

The Gulf is plagued by complaints of mistreatment of its domestic workforce, with estimates by the International Trade Union Confederation showing that more than 2.1 million women employed in households across the region are at risk of exploitation.

At the height of the abuse, Simiyu says she escaped the house she was working in and went to the agency that had recruited her, requesting to be transferred to another household. The agency promised to get her work in two days, but that stretched into weeks, and many other women had been waiting much longer.

She alleges that agency officials would lock them in a hostel, with only one meal a day, and hound them for sex in exchange for a new assignment. It was only after Simiyu and a few other women escaped the hostel and publicly resisted agency officials’ efforts at a forced return that the women were taken to the Kenyan embassy in Saudi Arabia, which facilitated their return.

Simiyu considers herself fortunate to have made it back home. At least 89 Kenyans, most of whom were domestic workers, died in Saudi Arabia between 2020 and 2021, according to a report by Kenya’s ministry of foreign affairs presented to the national assembly late last year. Saudi Arabia attributed these deaths to “cardiac arrest”.

Faced with these grim statistics, the foreign affairs ministry proposed a ban on the deployment of Kenyan domestic workers to Saudi Arabia until protection measures were taken. But Kenya’s cabinet secretary for labour, Simon Chelugui, rejected those calls, saying that hundreds of thousands of Kenyans were employed there under “favourable conditions”.

Countries like Uganda and the Philippines have previously halted deployment of their domestic workers to Saudi Arabia over widespread reports of abuse, but later lifted the bans. Like Kenya, both countries receive significant remittances from their citizens working in Saudi Arabia.

The Gulf is the third-largest source of diaspora remittances for Kenya, and payments have doubled over the last two years, making a sustained ban on the export of labour unlikely.

Across the Gulf region, more than 2.1 million women employed in households are at risk of exploitation.
Across the Gulf region, more than 2.1 million women employed in households are at risk of exploitation. Photograph: Yasser Al-Zayyat/AFP/Getty Images

“The response of the government has been poor at best,” said Hussein Khalid, executive director of Haki Africa. “It’s not what you would expect from a government when its citizens are in distress.”

The government has taken some measures to mitigate the abuse, such as vetting domestic worker-recruitment agencies, listing the accredited ones on its website, and requiring them to pay a security bond that can be used to repatriate Kenyan workers facing distress.

Women who go to Saudi Arabia through unregistered agencies often face heightened risk of abuse and unethical practices, with rights groups reporting that some workers sign contracts in Arabic, with no understanding of the language. Ojiro likens the rogue agencies to human traffickers.

The government has also signed bilateral labour agreements with Saudi Arabia, and set up a distress reporting portal. But the content of the agreements is not public and at the time of publication, the portal could not be accessed.

Faced with growing pressure, Saudi Arabia also implemented some measures to protect domestic workers, including reforms to the kafala system and the introduction of a wage protection programme. In a statement to the Guardian, Chelugui said that the government was satisfied with the measures taken by Saudi Arabia to protect Kenya’s workers.

But as claims of pay abuse and the forcible detainment of Kenyan domestic workers in the Gulf state persist, rights groups say that much more needs to be done.

Source link

Global Affairs

‘Destitution is almost inevitable’: Afghan refugees in Greece left homeless by failed system | Migration and development

Avatar

Published

on

Mohammad Ashraf Rasooli, 70, looks at his five-year-old granddaughter, sitting on the floor next to him watching cartoons on a phone. They live in a two-bedroom flat in a suburb of Athens. “Even tomorrow, we don’t know what will happen to us,” he says.

The former judge and legal adviser to the Afghan Ministry of Justice, who had a role in putting together the 2004 Afghan constitution, is facing eviction with his family, including his three grandchildren. This is in line with regulations in Greece, which state that once someone has obtained refugee status, they must leave the accommodation provided for them within 30 days.

Since being evacuated to Greece last October, the family have been in limbo, hoping to join relatives in the UK and grieving for lives left behind in Kabul. Due to Rasooli’s high-profile work, as well as that of his daughter, a former journalist, and his son-in-law Fazel Sultani, a prosecutor at the Ministry of Justice, the family had gone into hiding after the Taliban stormed Kabul.

“We had a lot of problems, because the Taliban were saying if somebody had worked with NGOs or international organisations we’d be killed. It was very difficult for me to be there; we went to hide in a few places until we got evacuated,” says Rasooli. He scrolls through his phone to show photos of his home, pointing out books on the shelves, including legal texts he wrote, which he has been told have since been destroyed by Taliban soldiers.

The family has tried to make the best of things and the children are in Greek schools, but until recently, Rasooli feared to go outside in case his papers were checked. They had to wait until this month to receive asylum seeker ID cards.

They struggled to navigate a catch-22 system whereby access to rent subsides requires having a rental contract, while landlords will not rent without proof of the subsidies.

Rasooli and his family are not alone, says Minos Mouzourakis, an advocacy officer at Refugee Support Aegean (RSA). “Destitution is almost inevitable for refugees recognised in Greece. Expecting them to promptly leave accommodation despite exclusion from social welfare and protracted, often year-long, delays in renewing documents is a policy choice breaching the country’s legal obligations according to jurisdictions across the continent,” he says.

Mohammad Ashraf Rasooli (second left), sits with Fazel Sultani, his son-in-law, granddaughter and daughter in their flat in Athens, Greece.
Mohammad Ashraf Rasooli (second left), sits with Fazel Sultani, his son-in-law, granddaughter and daughter in their flat in Athens. Photograph: Anna Pantelia/The Guardian

RSA has gathered more than 100 testimonies of recognised refugees in Greece who have turned to jobs such as collecting waste cardboard around Athens to sell to recycling companies. For such work they may earn between €10 and €20 a day.

RSA has recorded cases where refugees returned to Greece have faced destitution, such as Soraya* and Somaya* from Afghanistan who were sent back from Sweden in June this year. They are now reliant on soup kitchens and solidarity networks and must wait until January 2023 to get identification documents. Some courts, in countries such as Germany, have halted returns of refugees to Greece judging that they are likely to face inhumane or degrading treatment.

“The situation for recognised refugees in Greece is dire. It is commonplace that people granted protection status in Greece face destitution and homelessness following their positive asylum decision,” says Lucy Alper, a legal coordinator with Refugee Legal Support in Athens.

“The only integration programme, Helios, funded by the EU and implemented by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is not fit for purpose. Many people enrolled in the Helios programme cannot access the limited rental subsidies offered, as they must first open a Greek bank account, pay a deposit on a flat and sign a house contract via the government’s online platform. Barriers are at every turn, exacerbated by the bureaucracy of the Greek asylum system.

“Notwithstanding these failures, people are being evicted from their accommodation. There is no safety net,” says Alper.

The IOM says 19,000 people had leased an apartment so far, which spoke to the “feasibility of the requirements”. They added there are, “all the necessary services to support recognised refugees in finding and leasing apartments … IOM in coordination with its partners ensures support and interpretation in issuing all required documents … whenever obstacles are encountered, targeted support is provided to solve possible problems.” It says it had no “recorded cases” of difficulties from those who applied within the appropriate time frame due to bureaucracy.

Rasooli hopes to go to the UK under the Afghan relocations and assistance policy (Arap) but has a rejection that is under review. His initial rejection letter, seen by the Guardian, states that since he has asylum in Greece, he will have access to medical care and is in relative safety – facts disputed by NGOs who have documented the precariousness of life for refugees in the country.

For now, the family remains in Athens, hopeful for an offer of an apartment for the short term. Nothing about the future is certain.

The Greek Migration Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

* Names have been changed to protect identities

Source link

Continue Reading

Global Affairs

Europe Lost Russia as Energy Supplier, Russian Envoy Says

Avatar

Published

on

https://sputniknews.com/20221130/europe-lost-russia-as-energy-supplier-russian-envoy-says-1104846298.html

feedback@sputniknews.com

+74956456601

MIA „Rosiya Segodnya“

2022

Sputnik International

feedback@sputniknews.com

+74956456601

MIA „Rosiya Segodnya“

News

en_EN

Sputnik International

feedback@sputniknews.com

+74956456601

MIA „Rosiya Segodnya“

https://cdnn1.img.sputniknews.com/img/07e6/0b/15/1104507900_252:0:2981:2047_1920x0_80_0_0_0a4993de5254e30f835339011b72a629.jpg

Sputnik International

feedback@sputniknews.com

+74956456601

MIA „Rosiya Segodnya“

russia, international energy agency (iea), mikhail ulyanov, envoy, energy supplies

russia, international energy agency (iea), mikhail ulyanov, envoy, energy supplies

VIENNA (Sputnik) – Russia’s Permanent Representative to International Organizations in Vienna Mikhail Ulyanov said Europe has lost Russia as its largest energy supplier.

“Isn’t it vice versa: Europe has lost Russia as its largest energy supplier to get the opportunity to buy the US LNG at a much higher price? Great achievement!” Ulyanov wrote on Twitter.

It was his response to a user post that quoted the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) saying Russia had lost Europe as its largest energy client “forever.”

IEA chief Fatih Birol said in October that Russia had lost the European oil and gas market forever and would face a drop in production. The West stepped up sanctions pressure on Russia over Ukraine, which led to higher prices for electricity, fuel and food in Europe and the United States.

A view shows gas metering units at the Gazprom's Amur Gas Processing Plant near the town of Svobodny, Amur Region, Russia. The plant was launched on June 9, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 27.11.2022

Russia Determined Not to Sell Energy Resources to Those Who Set Price Caps: Kremlin

Russian President Vladimir Putin said cheap and reliable Russian energy resources were Europe’s competitive advantage, and even a partial rejection of them already had a negative impact on its economy and residents. The US, pushing through the EU’s complete rejection of Russian energy carriers and other resources, is leading to the de-industrialization of Europe, he said.

Putin, commenting on the West’s idea to limit prices for Russian energy resources, said Russia would not supply anything abroad if this was contrary to its own interests.

Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said Russia would not supply oil to countries that set any price cap. He added that such restrictions were interference in market tools, and Moscow was prepared to work with consumers ready for market conditions.



Source link

Continue Reading

Global Affairs

Kirchner: Argentina’s vice-president blasts ‘firing squad’ overseeing her corruption trial | International

Avatar

Published

on

“Last words…” said Cristina Fernández de Kirchner from her office in the Senate, staring at the camera. She paused for a second, smiled and delivered the line she had already envisaged as a headline. “Never has a judicial term been so appropriate to define what this court is: it is a firing squad.”

Her words were aimed at three federal judges who on December 6 will decide whether she is guilty of leading an alleged scheme to divert state funds through public works contracts. The prosecution wants Fernández de Kirchner to spend 12 years behind bars and be permanently barred from holding public office.

Fernández de Kirchner, 69, has been charged with “illicit association” and “aggravated fraudulent administration” in connection with a corruption case involving 12 other defendants and known in Argentina as the Vialidad Case. The 51 contracts under scrutiny were awarded in the province of Santa Cruz, the political cradle of Kirchnerism, to companies owned by a friend of the Kirchners, Lázaro Baez, over a 12-year period (Baez has since been sentenced to 12 years in prison for money laundering). Prosecutors said many contracts were inflated and some were never carried out. They have estimated that the scheme cost the state around $1 billion. The defendants include officials accused of collecting bribes and businesspeople suspected of paying them.

But the vice-president claims to be a victim of political persecution.

“A government that was democratically elected three times is not an ‘illicit association’,” she said, alluding to the government of her late husband Néstor Kirchner (2003 -2007) and her own two terms in the president’s office between 2007 and 2015.

On Tuesday, the vice-president spoke for less than 20 minutes, a far cry from the long speeches she has given in the past in court. At her first hearing on December 2, 2019, she claimed to be the victim of a case in which the sentence had been decided ahead of time. The ultimate goal of the trial, according to the vice-president, is to remove her from politics and erode Peronism, the movement she represents.

“The sentence is written, but I never thought it would be so badly written,” said Fernández de Kirchner, accusing the two lead prosecutors in the case, Diego Luciani and Sergio Mola, of spreading lies about her. To reinforce the idea of the firing squad, she recalled the assassination attempt against her outside her house in early September.

Kirchner has maintained throughout the trial that the entire investigation against her is a set-up by the opposition to imprison her. Her lawyers have uploaded a document entitled “The Twenty Lies of the Vialidad Case” to social media.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition

Source link

Continue Reading

Trending

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates 
directly on your inbox.

You have Successfully Subscribed!