Made for End to Exploitation of Workers in Nairobi

Thursday, August 16, 2001
The Center for Seafarers Rights (CSR) of the Seamen's Church Institute of New York & New Jersey has raised fears over the ongoing recruitment of Kenyans to work in cruise vessels abroad. CSR learned that a United Arab Emirate recruiting firm recently approached approximately 50,000 Kenyan citizens for work aboard cruise vessels owned by U.K., Spanish, Portuguese, and Greek companies. The recruits were asked to pay a fee, take a medical examination, and were not informed about maritime certification that is required for all who work on vessels. "The exploitation of these poor people must be exposed by working with government officials and raising consciousness through the media," said Douglas Stevenson, who is a member of the Advisory Council to the Anglican Observer to United Nations. "The Church must stand as a witness to these workers." Stevenson's concerns have appeared in print in The Nation, a newspaper from Nairobi, Kenya, and the allafrica.com website which compiles news from Africa. Stevenson recently wrote to Kenya's Minister for Labor, Joseph Ngutu, seeking clarification on the issue, saying "In our experience, some companies have exploited poor people by collecting fees with promises of high-paying jobs that do not exist." Stevenson said it was unusual that U.K. and European companies were using a United Arab Emirate company to recruit workers from Kenya. He also questioned the exclusion of the Merchant Shipping Superintendent's office from the process. "I'm also very concerned about charging recruits a non-refundable fee, which is a clear violation of Article 2 of the International Labor Organization convention," said Stevenson. "Facade companies approach low-income citizens of developing countries and take advantage of their difficult economic situation to offer jobs at a fee. After they have collected considerable amounts of money these companies vanish with the people's money." He said in order for Kenyans to work on cruise vessels, they must have a merchant marine certificate that is issued by the flag of the vessel on which the applicant will work and the applicant must have some basic training in Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW). Although Kenyan Labor Minister halted the recruitment in June, CSR learned that it is still going on through local agencies. According to The Nation on August 3, "An advertisement placed by one of the companies earlier contracted by the Ministry of Labor to recruit workers seeking jobs in cruise ships abroad did not give STCW as a condition and neither has the Ministry of Labor through its district employment officers. The recruiting agencies include Mombasa Secretarial Services of Mombasa, Lomohomi; Manpower Experts; Madam 'P' Manpower; Sam Manpower Consultants; and Kanmes International - all based in Nairobi."

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