January 19, 2022
Since the 6th of January 2022, Kenyan women have been holding a sit-in along with protests in front of their Consulate in Lebanon, demanding repatriation and adequate support from the Consular Staff. This is not an isolated incident; this protest comes after multiple appeals of the Kenyan workers in Lebanon, and a similar open protest in August 2020. At the time, CNN published a full feature about the Consulate’s practices and violations titled “How the Kenyan consulate in Lebanon became feared by the women it was meant to help.” No formal investigation to date has been carried out by the Kenyan Embassy in Kuwait into the serious allegations reported in the article.
Kenyan migrant domestic workers in Lebanon have been governed for years by the notorious Kafala ‘sponsorship’ system, which deprives workers from essential labor and human rights. Under complete inaction from the side of the Lebanese government, the Kenyan Consulate remains the only and last resort for Kenyan workers who need protection and assistance in the country. However, in face of the multilayered crises facing Lebanon, and the multitude of hardships endured by all Migrant Domestic Workers in the country, the consulate has remained completely unresponsive, using automated Whatsapp messages in English to respond to the needs of the citizens it is mandated to serve. These citizens are not all English speakers, which begs the question of why and how none of the current Consular staff are Swahili speakers, as it is one of the official languages of Kenya. These hardships repeatedly reported to the Consulate include a long list of horrifying physical, verbal and sometimes sexual abuses by the workers’ employers, inhumane working hours, deprivation of rest and days off as well as many months of unpaid wages.
Moreover, Kenyan women have repeatedly reported various incidents of abuse of power, mistreatment, and corruption by the current Consular staff. These claims include extorting and exploiting undocumented women who want to go home, and charging women different amounts of money for the same procedures, who often did not receive any support following their payment of requested amounts.
To make matters worse, many of the Kenyan protestors at the Consulate came to Lebanon only a few months ago. They reported that they were lied to by agents and mediators in their country, and were not told about the real situation concerning the currency crisis and the working conditions under the Kafala system in Lebanon.
The immediate repatriation of Kenyans, and all Migrant Domestic Workers in Lebanon, who wish to go home, by their respective consulates.
In light of the ongoing protests, and the multiple complaints documented over the years, claims of abuse and corruption against the Kenyan Consulate can no longer be dismissed. The Kenyan government and the Kenyan Embassy in Kuwait should take serious action in that regard, including a) the immediate removal of the current Consular staff, followed by an independent serious investigation into the multiple reports of mistreatment by said staff b) holding the current representatives accountable for their abuse of power and unresponsiveness, c) remunerating workers who paid money for repatriation services they never received.
Having a competent and responsive Consular office that is able to support their needs and respond to them in a timely manner, with Kenyan representatives capable of communicating with Kenyan citizens in Swahili.
Engage in long-term reform of the practices of the consulate to ensure full accountability and ethical conduct in its services, including: a) Setting transparent, standard, and fair payment of fees for consular processes and repatriation support, that is accessible to all Kenyan workers in English and Swahili b) Standard processes for emergency situations, labor abuse, and other violations to ensure thorough investigations and intervention.
For the Kenyan government to monitor, and put an end to the unethical recruitment practices in the country, resulting in multiple cases of human trafficking.
For individuals and organizations present in Lebanon: Protestors need direct assistance to continue with the protests. This includes winter clothes; jackets, pullovers, socks, and blankets. They also need COVID-19 protective kits (masks and hand sanitizers), as well as sanitary products. Women who are on their way to be repatriated by other organizations are in urgent need of suitcases.
For individuals and organizations outside of Lebanon: Share this statement with the Kenyan Embassy in your country. Raise awareness about the issue in your networks to help keep the Kenyan women’s voices as loud as possible, until their demands are met.
For information and updates about the protests, follow this Instagram page the protestors have created to cover the protests and post updates about immediate needs.
To inquire about this statement and the context, email us or fill the form.