The International Organization for Migration (IOM) conducted two batches of introductory workshops on the International Recruitment Integrity System (IRIS) for 28 Private Employment Agencies (PEAs) based in Mombasa county from 18-21 November 2019. IRIS is a voluntary multi-stakeholders certification system for international labour recruiters developed by IOM and other like-minded partners aimed at ultimately transforming the international recruitment industry to make it fair for workers, recruiters and employers. The agencies were members of the Kenya Association of Private Employment Agencies (KAPEA). PEAs in Kenya have been recruiting skilled and low-skilled labour to the Gulf States for decades which contribute to migrant workers’ livelihood, migrant families’ economic wellbeing as well as remittance to the government of Kenya.
In the first five months of 2019, remittances stood at Ksh118.9 billion, a 3.8 per cent increase on the same period in 2018 (World Bank). Currently employment agencies are vetted and accredited by the National Employment Authority (NEA) to promote safe, regular and orderly labour migration. This process endeavors to reduce unscrupulous and illegal recruitment methods which put migrant workers at risk leading to trafficking of persons or gross violation of human rights.
The high fees charged by some PEAs for migrant recruitment have led some to situations of debt bondage. Job creation remains a priority for the Kenyan government and is key in the Big 4 agenda. “There is need to regulate the labour migration industry as well as promote migrant protection. This introductory training has the full support of the national government and is in line with the Kenya national priorities for the Global Compact for Migration,” underscored by Ms. Romina Sta.Clara, Programme Development and Liaison Officer, IOM Kenya. The Kenyan government has prioritised safe migration and participated in the Montreal workshop in Canada earlier in the year which involved different key players from the world to discuss labour migration management and ethical recruitment practices. The government is currently developing the Labour Migration Policy and Bill that will mainstream protection of Kenyan migrant workers.
With the impending reforms in Qatar beginning 2020 January meant to scarp the Kafala system, it creates more pressure on the government and PEAs to change the way they do business for enhanced migrant protection. The training has been endorsed by the national government aimed at equipping the PEAs with ethical recruitment principles. “The current policy and bill being drafted have incorporated these principles and once adopted it will be mandatory for all agencies to change the way they do business,” intoned by Mr. Joseph Njue, acting director from the National Employment Authority (NEA). “PEAs are receiving requests from Canada and other Europe-based companies who require the employment agencies to be IRIS-certified to receive job orders. Therefore, to expand into new markets, beyond the Gulf States, it is critical for PEAs in Mombasa to be IRIS-certified,” emphasized by Mr. Mwalimu Mwaguzo, Chairman, KAPEA. Employment agencies should be committed to change how they conduct their businesses by adhering to the IRIs principles. He added.