Pakistan blames agents for deserting nationals now stranded in Nairobi

Employment agents in Nairobi and Islamabad who have pocketed more than Sh6.3 billion should be blamed for the uncoordinated entry of thousands of Pakistani nationals into the country, Embassy officials have said.

Pakistani High Commissioner to Kenya Saqlain Syedah spoke for the first time yesterday, after the government announced a crackdown on the foreigners, explaining that her countrymen are not interested in working in Kenya.

“The individuals are not at fault. They were brought here legally,” Syedah told The Sunday Standard at the Pakistan Embassy in Nairobi yesterday.

The diplomat also said the over 14,000 Pakistani nationals who have been spotted in different city estates are not criminals, but workers seeking employment abroad.

According to Syedah, the Pakistanis have valid travel documents and will all travel to Saudi Arabia, where they have secured menial jobs.

She went on to blame rogue employment agents in Nairobi and Islamabad for the mess.

And as the migrant workers faced the wrath of police, those responsible for bringing them into the city have been enjoying huge profits paid to them by the migrants seeking employment.

Pakistani nationals interviewed by the embassy revealed that they were required to pay Sh450,000 per person to the agents to secure their travel documents from Islamabad, transit to Nairobi and finally to Saudi Arabia where they had secured employment.

Syedah said despite the agents pocketing these huge sums of cash, they did not care for the welfare of their clients.

They booked accommodation for the migrant workers in residences outside the city, thereby exposing them to poor living conditions.

The government said about 14,000 individuals had entered the country since June. But according to Syedah, the Pakistani nationals are in the country on a 14-day travel quarantine before proceeding to Saudi Arabia for work.

Some of the Pakistanis who spoke to The Sunday Standard said they were travelling back to Saudi Arabia where they were working before, but their country was classified on the Covid-19 Red List, thus forcing them to transit through Kenya before proceeding there.

Secured jobs

They explained that most of the foreigners were casual labourers, among them painters, plumbers and machine operators who have secured jobs in the Gulf country.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani High Commissioner has called on the Kenya government to contact the Embassy so that the two countries can reach an amicable agreement.

She said that since the Interior Ministry launched a crackdown on the migrants, no official from the government had engaged her office.

“We should have been the first people to receive the information about this. We have not. It has only leaked through the media,” Syedah said, adding that her efforts to reach out to the Foreign Affairs and Interior ministries have not borne fruit.

On Wednesday, hours after Interior PS Karanja Kibicho issued a statement, police embarked on a crackdown during which about 2,000 Pakistani nationals were flushed out from different hotels and estates within the city.

Immigration officers who scrutinised the migrants’ travel documents said they were valid.

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