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GJG-Kenya GJG has initiated a program aimed at ending exploitation and killing of Kenyan migrant domestic workers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and to support the victims of deceptive labour recruitment and slavery-like practices to access justice and achieve recognition by claiming their right to remedy. This has encapsulated in an intensive evidence documentation process, through conduct of interviews of survivors and families of killed victims, which can support a claim before a court of law as well as inform advocacy interventions toward reform of Bilateral Labour Agreements and other legislative and policy structures toward a wholesome approach of fair and safe migration.


Kenya has adopted an intensive labour export agenda as spearheaded by the Head of State – H.E. William Ruto. Early 2023, the government announced plans to send at least one million workers to foreign nations pegged and premised on the need to increase diaspora remittances to the country from the estimated KES 400 Billion as of 2022 to KES 1 trillion. H.E. Ruto has been engaged with talks with many foreign nations, including Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and many others to host and employ Kenya workers.

Many if not all of these talks have been closed door meetings, with hardly sufficient public participation. The Constitution of Kenya enshrines public participation as one of the core tenets of national values and principles of governance. This then prompts the queries on the extent of engagement of the public in formulation, implementation and review of such policies.

Labour migration has its great economic benefits to both origin and destination countries. However, it is not devoid of a myriad of challenges that are complex and intersectional which migrant workers are susceptible to. These include but are not limited to human trafficking, smuggling of migrants, forced labour and modern slavery. To adequately address such looming challenges of the mass labour exportation policy adopted by the government, it is imperative that a multistakeholder approach to public participation is embraced by all.

In hosting the webinar, GJG-Kenya’s main aim was to assess the level of interest of the public and key stakeholders in the discourse as well as to pick out key advocacy areas that ought to be highlighted in light of the Kenya labour export state policy. All recommendations, comments and questions raised will be collated into a position paper which shall be circulated to state and non-state stakeholders.


The moderators and key presenters of the webinar were Stephanie Marigu (GJG-K Legal Adviser & Bonareri Okeiga (Programs Assistant).

The webinar had attracted a registration of 146 participants which culminated in log in by at least 75 people (about 51% of the total registered participants). 

The webinar kicked off with opening remarks by GJG Executive Director, Valentina Cominetti who elaborated on the mandate of GJG being access to remedy and reparations for victims of international crimes and that of GJG-Kenya as ending exploitation and killing of women migrating to Saudi Arabia as domestic workers. She placed emphasis on the public participation in the Kenya labour export policy which GJG views as a potential for remedy for victims of human trafficking, most especially public participation in the renegotiation of bilateral agreements.

Key highlights of the presentation of the Kenya labour export state policy which has adopted a top-down approach:

  • President’s remarks on the intention to export Kenyan labour to the tune of between 3,000 and 5,000 weekly – the main purpose “…so they can go work abroad and bring us money”. These numbers can roughly be extrapolated to about 1 million Kenyans during his tenure – a display of the expanse of the policy reach. The reverberating effect of the numbers.

  • Further remarks by the Head of State that there are over 12 labour pacts with various countries toward reduction of unemployment in Kenya, the details of which have been obscured from public scrutiny and engagement.

  • The state directive on prioritization of National Youth Service graduates (approximately 10,000 annually) in Kenya’s labour export – addressing the target population profile.

  •  The reaction by destination countries to the policy – Saudi Arabia reduction of hiring fees for Kenyan domestic workers by Ksh 80,000 which is a nearly 17% decrease, aimed at making Kenya a lucrative source country of domestic workers in Saudi Arabia.

The impact of the political goodwill/ influence on the implementation of the labour export policy:

  • Fast-tracked development of legislation – The Labour Migration Management Bill 2023 drafted by the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection for which submission of memoranda as part of public participation was concluded.

  • Institution of elaborate oversight and management committees – the launch of committees to implement the Global Labour Market Strategy in 2023 by the PS for the State Department of Diaspora Affairs.

  • Digitization of services for mass reach - The launch of the Kazi Majuu platform (hosted on the eCitizen platform) in 2023 by the president which seeks to directly link recruiters to potential migrant workers. Further, the National Skills Inventory Database was launched in January 2024 by the PS for the State Department of Labour and Skills Development aimed and designed to enhance job placement of unemployed youth by effectively aligning available skills to the international labor markets.


The overall impact of the labour export policy in Kenya:

  • Increased diaspora remittances – a breakdown of statistics from the Central Bank of Kenya on remittances where notably, Saudi Arabia diaspora remittances to Kenya are 2nd highest at nearly 8 billion in just 8 months, and the highest labour diaspora remittances. 

  • Increased employment opportunities – survey by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics which indicated an overall unemployment rate of the youth in Kenya at 32% against the increased opportunities created by the labour export policy.

  • Improved living standards.

  • Increased cases of recruitment scams – the example of Firstchoice recruitment was given which caused locals to demonstrate after they were fleeced out of money, they paid to secure them job in Qatar during the World Cup season. The issuance of caution by the government of Canada to Kenyans on fake labour recruitment programs following a false announcement of a Kenya-Canada labour pact by the Cabinet Secretary for Foreign & Diaspora Affairs.

  • Increased cases of human trafficking – Kenyan media platforms are awash with cases of

  • Increased cases of forced labour and modern slavery.


Feith Murunga, GJG Survivor Liaison Officer – shared her lived experience as a survivor of human trafficking and modern slavery. She emphasized the importance of engaging potential and returnee migrant workers in the negotiations and renegotiations of labour agreements. Feith further gave targeted examples and recommendations on pre-departure, post-departure and distress remedial mechanisms toward safeguarding the rights of migrant domestic workers.


The plenary session was opened for remarks by participants which were captured as herein:

  • There is a rush by the government to export labour and hardly any opportunities accorded for public participation. A query on what is going on in the public and CSO forum and how this conversation can be scaled up to ensure that the recommendations and suggestions are tabled before respective duty bearers.

  • Kenyans are in a space that they are running to the temporary labour migration plans without proper structures such as even a labour attaché in the destination countries which results in a lot of stress on returnees who find themselves susceptible to harsh, unsafe and unfair working conditions. That public participation in such discourse will ensure that Kenyans are alive and alert to the dynamics of labour migration and act with caution.

  • Need to assess the measures taken to ensure that the labour migration programs appropriately protect the right to human dignity.

  • How the lack of forehand information on redress mechanisms such as Embassies and repatriation procedure leave migrant workers in distress.

  • Labour unions for migrant workers and their bargaining power for the conditions of work. Foreseeable jurisdictional challenges – how can this however be circumnavigated?

  • Need to evaluate the government structure and mechanism for engagement of CSOs and Academia.

  • Pointedly the lack of the conversation on population drain, that while we are a youthful nation that may be considered to have a population bulge that are unemployed, the long term effect will be drain. This is evident in the health sector where doctors and nurses are raising an alarm on the number of doctors and nurses who are leaving the country.

  • The thrive of the criminal enterprise in the transnational organized crime network as a result of increased labour migration; and the lack of adequate mechanisms by the country to track perpetrators or even provide legal remedy and redress on the same. The criminal justice agenda is important to highlight on the manner institutions therein such as the investigative and policing services and the extent they can address the question.

  • Need to assess the extent to which Kenya has the capacity to develop and negotiate shared standards with the recipient nations. That labour pact discussions should be accompanied by protocols on a shared framework of engagement for migrant workers which are premised on the protection of human rights and their enforcement.

  • Benchmarking policies against countries with better labour migration management structures such The Philippines.

  • The challenge of Labour officers who are in cahoots with perpetrators and end up bouncing distressed and vulnerable migrant workers around as they would commodities; therefore, need to establish and institute measures to curb and root out corruption in the labour migration management systems.

  • Discuss innovative solutions, best practices and the integration of new technologies to ensure the welfare and protection of migrant workers in light of the Kenya Labour Export policy framework.

  • Engage with the standard operating procedures for migrant workers in destination and origin countries as well as the setting of minimum safeguarding standards for migrant workers in the destination

  • To think around how to create support and maintain impact around the policy being formulated.

  • To undertake public awareness campaigns.

  • Regulation of recruitment agencies in Kenya through pressure on the government to increase monitoring on the same – the Labour Migration Integrated Market System.


The remarks in this conversation look to be very strategic toward the development of a position paper that can open up the pathway for public participation and engagement in the Kenya Labour Export policy. Through identification of strategic and correct stakeholders and in particular, duty bearers, a platform for public participation on issues of labour migration and human trafficking.

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