Kenya’s Honorary Consul in Lebanon Sayed Chalouhi and his assistant, Kassem Jaber, both Lebanese nationals have been accused of harassing and abusing Kenyan nationals in Beirut.
A CNN report paints a picture of helpless, beaten and hungry Kenyan domestic workers in Lebanon, who have been abused by the very officers appointed by the Kenyan government to protect its nationals.
A woman named Linda by the CNN to conceal her identity says, “My phone rings 24/7 with calls from Kenyan women. They need food. They need answers.”
“I tell you we are passing through hell here,” another Kenyan woman told CNN.
The Kenya Consulate is accused of exploiting, exacerbating the Kenyan community’s hardship by inflating payments made to clear legal hurdles on their path to return.
According to the report, Rights group ARM said it has been told about alleged exploitation at the consulate by at least 50 Kenyans.
“For many years, we’ve received reports from Kenyan women about their experiences in facing exploitation from the consul and the consulate,” a caseworker leading the probe into the consulate at ARM told CNN.
Another woman named Gloria said the consulate mishandled and insulted her, and said she should go practice prostitution to earn money.
“He told me, if you are saying you don’t have money, you are a woman, you can go outside and find money,” Gloria said. “He told me you can get money. You can find a man.”
Denying the allegations of overcharging women for their repatriation, Jaber said that the consulate adheres to Lebanon’s standard repatriation procedures.
“However, CNN has seen receipts in the names of Kenyan women for money they say was paid to the consulate. Gloria’s $1,500 sum was paid in two instalments in September 2019, according to the receipts, two months before the confrontation at the consulate.”
In December 13, 2018 Chalouhi, a lawyer, was in Kenya and met Labour Principal Secretary Dr Ibrahim Mohamed.
They agreed to initiate the process of putting in place a framework (MOU) for Kenya Labour migrations to Lebanon.
KENYA’S EMBASSY RESPONSE
The women have written to the Kuwait embassy, which is also accredited to Lebanon over the matter.
Kenya’s Ambassador to Kuwait, Halima Mohamud said the complaints had been noted, and proposed that as soon as the Covid-19 lockdown is lifted and airports resume operations, she will lead her team to Lebanon and hold a meeting with the Kenya community to resolve the issues.
Lebanon, is, however, not an isolated case as Kenyans living in China and other Middle East countries, especially Saudi Arabia, have on often accused Kenya’s foreign missions of failing to help them when in need.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was yet to respond to the CNN article.