Analysis of recruitment reviews from Kenyan migrant workers

Promoting Migrants' rights: Recruitment Advisor for Ethical Recruitment hence Reduced Vulnerability to Forced Labour


The Migrant Recruitment Advisor (MRA) analysis meeting that took place at COTU-K Head Quarters in Nairobi was attended by over one hundred (100) participants. This meeting brought together all the General Secretaries from her forty four (44) affiliates, some members of the board, Cooperate partners, Social partners (Federation of Kenya Employers and Ministry of labour), Migration networks for migrant workers, COTU-K affiliates as well as returnee Migrant Workers.

Following opening remarks made by Dr. Francis Atwoli, Teresa wabuko COTU-K focal point person labour migration and MRA project coordinator gave brief over view of the MRA project activities in Kenya since its launch on the 29th, October, 2018. Project activities included trainings on national laws governing labour migration and ILO principles and operational guidelines for fair recruitment, sensitization and advocacy on safe labour migration, media campaigns to popularize the MRA web platform and encourage its utilization.

Activity focus was mainly in counties with high prevalence of labour migration namely Kwale, Kilifi, Mombasa and Nairobi. Findings established through the activities conducted clearly indicated that fair recruitment in Kenya is yet to be realized. Those irregularities within the recruitment agencies are rampant by both licensed and unlicensed private recruitment agencies. 

The analysis report presented by Caroline Mugalla the Executive Secretary of East African Trade Union Confederation (EATUC) focused on Key findings, Conclusion, Lessons and Way forward. As at the time of analyzing web platform report, 479 reviews had been collected and uploaded to this peer to peer platform enabling other workers to learn from those with experience.

Migrant workers comments as uploaded to the website and analyzed were as follows;

  • Some of the workers experienced long working hours
  • Some employers abused the migrant workers
  • Some employers mistreated the migrant workers
  • Some workers experienced various forms of harassment in the hands  their employers or recruiters, ranging from physical, sexual and psychological
  • Some workers experienced challenges with consular/embassy services is host countries
  • National law in both countries of origin and destination do not adequately address issues of labour migration.
  • There are gaps in grievances and dispute handing process and mechanisms subjecting some workers to an anticipated stay in deportation centers or jail
  • The need to establish migrant resource information center
  • The need to provide return and reintegration services
  • The need to harness acquired skills from the host countries

Lessons Learnt

  • Friends are key informants on foreign job opportunities for the migrant workers in Kenya.
  • Recruitment costs are mostly incurred by the migrant workers.
  • Not all migrant workers undergo Pre-employment orientation prior to employment.
  • Very minimal (if any) written contracts in foreign languages with limited contents are issued to migrant workers
  • Most of the migrant workers work under poor working conditions coupled with abuse, violations of rights including mistreatment by employers.
  • Passports and other documents of migrant workers are always confiscated by the employers of the migrant workers.
  • Majority of the migrant workers neither receive the jobs nor the salaries they are promised during the recruitment process.
  • Most migrant workers find it difficult to resign from their employment even if they wished to.
  • There are no trade unions or workers associations to represent the migrant workers in the foreign countries.


  • Most of the migrant workers source information about foreign jobs from their friends and not from the regular sources of employment information provided by the government.
  • Migrant workers continue to meet various costs of recruitment despite the provisions by the Kenya Private Employment Agency Regulations that employers will be charged a fee for the recruitment and placement of workers by the Private Employment Agencies and that additional costs related to deployment (capped at one month’s salary of the migrant worker) can be charged to a migrant worker, such as administrative costs and trade tests.
  • Majority of the migrant workers undergo pre-employment orientation while others do not despite the existence of the National Employment Authority tasked with this mandate and the requirement that this training must be done prior to employment.
  • Majority of the migrant workers are not issued with written contracts of employment as required by law. However, of the few that received the written contracts, they were in foreign languages not understandable by the migrant workers. The contents of such contracts were minimal and partially included the salaries, the job locations and the accommodation.


1. Intensive campaigns by COTU-K on:

  • Promoting access to regular sources of information on foreign job opportunities for the migrant workers in Kenya. COTU-K could as well provide such information on their websites on links to such employment opportunities. A specific information desk for migrant workers can as well be set at COTU-K headquarters.
  • Abolishment of all costs related to recruitment being incurred by the migrant workers.
  • Enhanced campaigns for mandatory Pre-employment orientation without which no deployment of the migrant workers.
  • Enhanced campaigns for mandatory issuance of written understandable employment contracts with clear contents and complete adherence to the contents thereof.
  • Enhanced campaigns for intensive labour inspection in all workplaces of the migrant workers to deal with violations of rights, abuse and mistreatment
  • Campaign for the right to possessing of Passports and other documents by the migrant workers during employment.

2. Intensive advocacy for the improvement on legislation of migrant workers both locally and internationally to allow for transnational trade union representation so that the migrant workers could be represented by their domestic trade unions with collaboration by trade unions in the host countries.

Compiled by: Teresa Wabuko (MRA Coordinator - COTU-K)

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