Muscat: Reports of a Kenyan woman going on a hunger strike in Oman are unfounded, according to an official of the Embassy of Kenya in Muscat.
On August 6, a news agency published a report from Nairobi, Kenya, about Winnie Juma, a Kenyan woman who was said to be on a hunger strike in Oman after being forced to work as a domestic when she had been told she would be working for an international airline.
Wario K. Guyo, Second Secretary at the Embassy of Kenya, told the Times of Oman that the embassy had spoken with Juma and confirmed that she is not actually on a hunger strike, but is complaining about being forced into a different job than the one she was offered and has not been allowed to report her problems to the police.
"The information that was given to the media in Kenya was not accurate. She has confirmed to us that she has not been on a hunger strike. The only thing she is complaining about is that she does not have access to the outside world. She cannot even raise her complaint to the local police and she is not allowed to move outside. Those are the main issues she raised," Guyo explained.
According to Guyo, Juma was told by a recruitment company in Kenya that she would be working as a flight attendant for an international airline. When she arrived in Oman on July 25, she was met by a local sponsor at the airport and the following day was told that she would be working in a house, as a domestic maid, not as part of a cabin crew.
"Of course, she has encountered some problems. That was the point when her frustration and despair began," said Guyo.
Juma spoke to her sister in Kenya, who then contacted the local media. Juma also contacted the Embassy of Kenya, which has since been in contact with the recruitment company in Kenya and the local sponsors in Oman.
"We made arrangements with the recruitment company in Kenya to purchase air tickets so that she goes back to rejoin her family. The recruitment agency is making these arrangements. Either today or tomorrow, she will be flying back to Kenya," Guyo said.
On Sunday morning, two more Kenyans hired by the same agency in Oman also approached the Embassy of Kenya due to a situation similar to Winnie Juma's. They had been promised jobs at airports in Oman but upon arrival were given jobs as domestics.
"This is the first time we've had a problem with them. We are in contact with the sponsor and her husband and they have cooperated with us. I hope they will resolve the two cases we received this morning," added Guyo.
He said normally the embassy tries to avoid using legal challenges by giving dialogue a chance first. If the problems cannot be resolved amicably, they are referred to the Ministry of Manpower, which then resolves these quickly.
Guyo said the Embassy of Kenya is working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to figure out how these job changes are being made, and how they can be avoided. He said it would help if any recruitment companies in Oman had to obtain a no-objection letter from the Embassy of Kenya.
"We [can] come to know if these are really legitimate recruitment agencies in Oman and we will then know their contacts and networks in Kenya, because there are some Kenyan companies which aren't vetted and approved by the Ministry of Labour in Kenya and they are doing these illegal activities," he explained.
As of June, there were 1,390 Kenyans living in Oman. Guyo said the Embassy of Kenya organises networking meetings with the Kenyan Diaspora in Oman so they can assist one another if there are any problems.
"That's one of the ways we've been able to reach them," he said.
The Times of Oman called Oman agency's office number and a mobile number, but the office line appeared to be disconnected and no one answered the mobile. The Times of Oman also contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ask for their reactions, but did not get a response there either.
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