HMC to double hospital beds in new Qatar medical complex by 2030

To tackle Qatar’s healthcare crisis, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) has unveiled a new ambitious 15-year master plan that includes doubling the number of hospital beds and operating theaters in the country and tripling car parking provisions by 2030.

Speaking to reporters today, officials said much of the focus will be on redeveloping HMC’s current central Doha sites into one, integrated complex, which will be linked across C-Ring Road by a pedestrian bridge.

Covered paths and air-conditioned walkways will also be built throughout the landscaped complex to encourage visitors, patients and staff to walk where possible between facilities.

The number of operating theaters will be more than doubled from 40 to 90 and the total number of car parking spaces will increase three-fold from 8,000 to 24,000 by 2030, HMC said.

There are also plans to expand its medical staff, clinics and hospital beds outside of Qatar’s capital.

That includes increasing the capacity of Al Khor and Al Wakrah hospitals to 500 beds each by 2030, and building five new diagnostic and treatments centers that will run clinics for a range of issues including diabetes, internal medicine, orthopedics, rehabilitation and imaging (CT and MRI scans).

There are also plans to double the number of ambulance points in Qatar from 20 to 40 in the coming 18 months to “enhance efficiency and emergency services,” HMC’s head of facilities planning John Lambert-Smith said.

While many of the details of the 15-year-plan include information about medical services and facilities that have already been announced by HMC in recent years, this is the first time the organization has publicly laid out its entire long-term vision for health care in Qatar.

The country’s current health services have been under severe strain due to its current population boom, which is related to infrastructure projects such as roads, rail, metro and stadiums being built for the 2022 World Cup.

After the tournament, United Nations’ figures forecast a slowing in the growth rate of the population, estimating it will reach approximately 2.76 million (compared to 2.33 million currently).


HMC is currently working to build a new Women’s Hospital, Ambulatory and Minimally Invasive Surgical Hospital and a Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Hospital, as well as extra operating rooms that would increase capacity of the existing Hamad General Hospital’s surgical department.

At the beginning of this year, the nation’s Prime Minister said that the majority of these new facilities, all located in the under-construction QR2.4 billion Hamad bin Khalifa Medical City complex should be finished and ready to launch by the middle of this year.

However, this deadline apparently will not be met.

Today, Dr. Hanan Al Kuwari, HMC’s managing director, said that construction on the project was “on track,” but once the building is complete would still need to be signed off by Civil Defense and other safety authorities.

As a result, the women’s hospital and ambulatory hospital are not expected to be operational until around mid-2016, she said.

Meanwhile, an opening date was not given for the rehabilitation institute, which will provide 195 beds across 10 floors and include a hydrotherapy facility, and provide physiotherapy, occupational and speech therapy, prosthetics and orthotics. It will also provide treatment for patients who have had strokes and brain injuries.

Under construction

Other facilities that are due for completion and opening soon include the Communicable Diseases Hospital, which should open late this year or early 2016. This is broadly on schedule according to the timeline in the Supreme Council of Health’s 2012 Annual Report.

The 65-bed hospital in the Al Rumailah campus of the new medical city will provide care for patients with serious transmissible illnesses and pandemics such as tuberculosis, SARS and MERS.

It will have beds in single rooms that can be turned into isolation units and will provide travel vaccinations and after-travel care for those who fall ill.

Meanwhile, the expansion of the busy Al Sadd Pediatric Emergency Center is also due to be finished by the end of this year, Al Kuwari said.

Renovations include a bigger family waiting area, separate male and female waiting areas and a pharmacy.

The center will also see an increase in the number of beds, from 45 to 58, and five new clinics and five new patient examination rooms, the Peninsula quoted HMC pediatric consultant Dr. Hani Khalaf as saying last month.

A expansion to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the existing Women’s Hospital is also planned to be open by the end of this year, adding 26 extra cots to the existing 80, and furthering care for high-risk or critically ill newborns.

Meanwhile, a new Bone & Joint Center is set to open at Hamad General Hospital by early 2016 and will provide outpatient care for fractures; pediatric orthopedics; spine, foot and ankle injuries; anthroplasty (surgery of the joint) and sports medicine.

Finally, a purpose-built trauma and emergency department at Hamad General Hospital, which is planning to increase its current emergency facilities three-fold, is also under construction.

Its specialist equipment will include a hyperbaric chamber to provide emergency medical treatment for those  in diving accidents.

This will be connected to the new suite of operating theaters, including 17 surgical theaters, three specialist theaters, trauma intensive care and surgical intensive care units.

By 2030

Other facilities remain in the planning stage, and are scheduled to be open sometime before 2030. They include:

  • A hospital in Al Shamal;
  • A new cancer hospital;
  • A psychiatric unit at Al Wakrah hospital;
  • A children’s development center at Al Wakrah; and
  • A new blood donor unit and expansion of blood bank services.

Top 5 UAE industries hiring right now

Dubai: There are fewer jobs available for the hundreds of UAE residents seeking new opportunities today, but certain businesses continue to expand and create additional positions.
According to the latest Monster Employment Index Middle East, a monthly gauge of online job postings in the region, the chemicals, plastic, rubber, paints, fertilizer and pesticides industry is currently leading the market in job creation. This sector had more vacancies to fill in October compared to a year earlier, registering a 50 per cent year-on-year growth in hiring.
There is also a high demand for talent in the UAE’s education industry, which posted a 33 per cent growth in recruitment. Companies in the medical industry are likewise seeking more skilled professionals, with the health care recruitment index rising by 21 per cent.
Hotels and other service-oriented organisations are keeping their doors open to jobseekers as well, with the hospitality index growing by 15 per cent. The oil and gas sector, which registered a 7 per cent year-on-year increase in labour demand, is also worth looking into.
The employment index, released on Monday, is based on a real-time review of tens of thousands of online job postings. Among the occupational groups monitored, legal professionals are the most in demand, posting a 33 per cent growth between October 2013 and 2014. Online demand for hospitality and travel professionals went up by 19 per cent.
Online demand for software, hardware and telecom professionals also bounced back, recording a 12 per cent growth, compared to negative six per cent in September 2014.
However, jobseekers with customer service, purchase, logistics and supply chain experience aren’t as lucky this time. Demand for these professionals has dropped by 16 per cent.
On the whole, recruitment activity in the UAE dropped by 2 per cent in October from the same period last year, owing to the slowdown in some sectors.
“However, despite this fall, consumers in the UAE remain confident and positive about [the] UAE’s job market as we head into 2015. Supporting this positive sentiment was also the wider economic landscape and IMF’s projections of economic growth for the country which reveals ongoing increased trends,” said Sanjay Modi, managing director at for India, Middle East, South East Asia and Hong Kong.
The consumer goods, food and packaged food, fast-moving consumer goods, home appliance, garments, textiles, leather, gems and jewellery sector posted the biggest decline in online recruitment at 19 per cent.
Hiring in the production, manufacturing, automotive and ancillary industry dropped by 14 per cent, while online recruitment in the advertising, market research, public relations, media and entertainment sector fell by 13 per cent.
The retail, trade and logistics industry also saw fewer job opportunities in October compared to a year ago, showing a recruitment decline of 7 per cent.
Recruitment in the information technology, telecom and ISP sector was down by 3 per cent.

India urges higher pay for millions of Gulf workers

New Delhi, Dubai, Riyadh: India is pressing rich countries in the Gulf to raise the wages of millions of Indians working there, in a drive that could secure it billions of dollars in fresh income but risks pricing some of its citizens out of the market.
More than 5 million Indian nationals are believed to be employed in the Gulf, the single largest group in a migrant worker population of more than 20 million. They account for nearly half of the roughly 50 million population of the GCC.
So India’s campaign for much higher pay could have an impact on economies around the region, especially if it leads to a general increase in wages for workers from other big labour-supplying countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Over the past seven months, Indian diplomats in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have sharply increased the minimum salaries that they recommend for Indian workers at private and public firms in those states.
New Delhi, Dubai, Riyadh: India is pressing rich countries in the Gulf to raise the wages of millions of Indians working there, in a drive that could secure it billions of dollars in fresh income but risks pricing some of its citizens out of the market.
More than 5 million Indian nationals are believed to be employed in the Gulf, the single largest group in a migrant worker population of more than 20 million. They account for nearly half of the roughly 50 million population of the GCC.
So India’s campaign for much higher pay could have an impact on economies around the region, especially if it leads to a general increase in wages for workers from other big labour-supplying countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Over the past seven months, Indian diplomats in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have sharply increased the minimum salaries that they recommend for Indian workers at private and public firms in those states.
“Of course it will encourage companies to look at Bangladesh and Pakistan as more viable options to get migrant workers,” said Mohammed Jindran, managing director of UAE-based recruitment agency Overseas Labour Supply.
An internal memorandum prepared by the MOIA, sent last month and seen by Reuters, says that if workers are offered wages below specified minimums, ministry officials “would deny emigration clearance”.
In Saudi Arabia, the Indian embassy lifted the recommended minimum salary posted on its website to 1,200 riyals ($320) a month earlier this year from 670 riyals. In the UAE, the minimum wage for Indian blue-collar workers rose to 1,500 dirhams ($409) in recent weeks from 1,200 dirhams last year, Jindran said.
Ahmed Al-Fahaid, Saudi deputy labour minister for international affairs, told Sky News Arabia last month: “If this is a decision that is applied throughout India as a whole, meaning no one gets out of India for work unless with that limit, then this is a sovereign decision for the country and we will not interfere,” Fahaid said.
“But if it is a special decision to raise wages for whoever comes to work in the kingdom, then we oppose it and do not accept it, as it would be an act of discrimination and we don’t accept that in international agreements.” He did not elaborate.
IMPACT If India’s efforts to secure higher pay succeed, they could boost its economy, because migrants send much of their pay home.
India received $69 billion as remittances in 2012; a 2010 central bank study found Gulf nations accounted for 31 percent.
Higher wages could also impact many companies. Fawwaz al-Khodari, chief executive of Saudi builder Abdullah Abdul Mohsin al-Khodari, said profits in the sector might be squeezed by demands from governments of some labour-exporting countries.
“In cases where salaries have been 800 to 900 riyals, we are now hearing talk of 1,500 riyals as a minimum salary, which is a huge increase…Clearly this would become a major issue in the contracting industry.”

Kuwait 5-year expat residency cap a step nearer

Manama: A bill calling for the imposition of a five-year residency cap on foreigners in Kuwait and a ban on bringing their families into the country has been cleared by the parliament’s legal and legislative committee.
The bill, submitted by MP Abdullah Al Tamimi, also limits the size of any expatriate community to less than 10 per cent of the Kuwaiti population, now estimated to be 1.25 million. Under the proposal, no community should be larger than 125,000 people.
The Indian community, the largest in the northern Arabian Gulf country, with more than 670,000 members and the Egyptian community, the largest among Arabs with around 520,000 people, would be dramatically affected and thousands of foreigners would have to leave the country.
The Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Filipino and Syrian communities among the largest in Kuwait would also see their numbers slashed.
The bill applies to unskilled and semi-skilled expatriates who make up the largest segment of the communities in Kuwait.
Excluded categories
Highly qualified and skilled expatriates are not included in the proposal promoted by Al Tamimi as seeking to address the alarming demographic issue in Kuwait.
The committee also reportedly called for removing the six-month period accorded to expatriates who leave the country before their residency visa is cancelled.
Under the bill, foreigners will also be banned from brining their families into the country, Kuwaiti media reported on Monday.
GCC, European Union and US citizens as well as consultants and doctors will be exempted from this provision, the committee said.
The legal and legislative committee assesses whether the bill is in line with the constitution and laws of the country.
Now, it will have to pass the interior and defence committee as the next step in the long process to come into force.
If it is passed by the parliamentary panel, it is taken up by lawmakers who debate its merits at the parliament. If it is endorsed, it is referred to the government.
Kuwait is home to around 2.5 million expatriates, mainly unskilled Asian labourers in the construction sector and domestic helpers, who make up two-thirds of the total population.
Several people have been pressing for addressing the demographic imbalance and reducing the country’s reliance on foreigners.
Labour market reforms
Pushing for an exhaustive reform of the labour market, Dhikra Al Rashidi, the minister of social affairs and labour in June last year pledged to spearhead a campaign to limit the number of unskilled foreigners amid reports that one million will be deported over the next 10 years with an average of 100,000 a year.
In February, MP Khalil Abdullah called for the deportation of 280,000 expatriates per year for the next five years to help address the imbalanced demographic in the country.
“There is a critical need to find solutions for the demographic situation in Kuwait,” he said.
“We need to have a Kuwaiti population that is at least equal to the number of foreigners who live in the country. Since we have 2.5 million expatriates, we need to bring the number down to 1.1 million in the next five years, which means we need to reduce their numbers by 280,000 every year,” he said.
However, he said that expatriates “with laudable contributions to the prosperity of the nation and with commendable experience to serve the country and the citizens” should not be included in the mass-deportation plan.
The business community has been vigourously resisting the deportation calls, warning that it could result in grave economic issues in the country.

Hiring Filipino maids in UAE just got tougher

Dubai: Hiring Filipino housemaids has become tougher in the UAE since the introduction of the unified contract for domestic workers in June that conflicts with policies of the Philippines, recruiters said.

Both the UAE and Philippine governments are committed to implementing their contracts designed for hiring maids. Recruiters and families who need to hire house help, however, are caught in the middle since both countries have differing policies.

The Ministry of Interior introduced the new standard contract for housemaids on June 1 to protect the interests of both housemaids and their employers. Following this, the Ministry of Labour issued a circular stopping embassies of labour-sending countries from verifying or ratifying contracts of domestic workers. It also said employers who wish to sponsor housemaids should not be compelled by embassies to be screened or “to sign any contract pledges by those embassies”.

Gulf News has obtained a copy of the circular.

The move has led to a shortage of maids from the Philippines, which imposes strict measures in maid deployment. The pool of domestic help in the UAE is getting smaller since the Ethiopian government still has a ban in place on its nationals from working in the UAE as maids. The Indonesian government is also currently making changes in its deployment policies, which has affected maid supply.

“Business is dead,” Rodel Gabriel, a consultant at Al Sharq Al Aqsa Labour Supply, told Gulf News. “Some 75 per cent of our deployments are Filipino maids. Because of the confusion over the conflicting policies, no new deployment can be made.”

No employment ban

The Philippine missions in Abu Dhabi and Dubai are directly affected because Philippine laws mandate them to verify contracts for housemaids before deployment to ensure that their rights are protected. Without the necessary verification, they cannot deploy housemaids. Philippine Labour Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, however, denied any deployment ban.

“We did not issue any deployment ban. Based on Philippine regulations, if no contracts are verified by the Philippine labour offices [in Dubai and Abu Dhabi], the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) will not process contracts for household service workers bound for the UAE,” Baldoz toldGulf News in a phone interview from Manila.

Baldoz said that their current decision only mirrored the Philippine government’s stance when Saudi Arabia earlier unilaterally suspended contract verification for maids. But despite the lack of a deployment ban, the Philippine Manpower Agencies for the United Arab Emirates based in Manila said they will stop sending Filipino maids to the UAE by July due to the ministry’s new rule, local media reported on Monday.

Contract verification

Verification is part of the Philippine reform programme package that upholds the protection of Filipino maids, including ensuring they get a minimum $400 (Dh1,469) monthly wage, a minimum age deployment of 23, a weekly off, and no placement fees, among others.

Recruiters who spoke to Gulf News agreed that Filipino maids are the most in demand because they speak English, are hard workers and “don’t cause too much trouble”. Next in demand are Indonesians, Sri Lankans, Bangladeshis and Nepalis.

Shoukat Ali, owner of Al Sanabil Manpower, said he currently has 34 visas left for Filipino maids but will have nothing after that.

“Every day we have customers asking for Filipino maids. But we can’t get new contracts any more. This has affected our business very badly. Inshaallah there will be a resolution soon.”

Ahmad Hatim, owner of Al Nasr Service Company, said his business too is in bad shape.

“I respect the rule of the Philippine government. They have a point. But I believe the new unified contract by the UAE government gives housemaids 100 per cent protection from abuse or unpaid salary since it’s the immigration that will run after [erring] sponsors,” Hatim said. “The old contract is just ink on paper; it has no police power here in the UAE.”

Gabriel underscored the importance of contract verification since it is “the country’s right to protect their nationals”.

“Based on my analysis of the market, about 80 per cent of abused workers are housemaids and lower-skilled workers,” Gabriel said. “I hope they come up with a resolution soon.”

Without new Filipino maids to deploy, other nationalities from Africa have filled the gap in the market.

Maid visa costs hit UAE expats

Abu Dhabi: Confusion prevails over the cost of sponsoring housemaids in Abu Dhabi after many applications were rejected in recent days, XPRESS has learnt.

“Several visa applications were rejected in the last two weeks because we had mentioned the maid’s salary as Dh400. Authorities insist applications must state the minimum prescribed salary of the maid,” said Arif, who runs a typing centre on Al Falah Street in Abu Dhabi.

In some cases, residents said they were asked to pay Dh14,000 instead of the present Dh5,000 in residency visa application fees.

Typing centres and residents say the visa fee has gone up two to three times based on the housemaid’s salary specification against which the visa cost is calculated.

Other typing centres and housemaid recruiting agencies XPRESS spoke to said till a few weeks ago, Dh400 was the standard salary mentioned in all housemaid visa applications irrespective of their original salary.

Hike in fees

“So earlier the application fee for a maid’s residence visa was about Dh5,000. The visa fee was 12 times Dh400, which adds up to Dh4,800 plus Dh200 processing charge, said another typist.

“But it has changed in the last two weeks. We are being asked to put the minimum prescribed salary of Dh1,100 in case of an Indian housemaid. That means the visa fee shoots up to Dh14,000,” he explained.

However XPRESS cannot confirm if maid visa costs are linked to the minimum salaries stipulated by their countries.

Many countries like Philippines, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have set minimum wage benchmarks for housemaids from their countries working abroad. The minimum salary for maids from Philippines is Dh1,400, India 1,100, Sri Lanka Dh825 and Indonesia Dh800.

An Indian family who recently hired a maid from India said they are in deep trouble because of the new salary specification rules. “We brought her to the UAE on April 22 to take care of our newborn. We were told the visa charges will be Dh5,000. But last week when we applied for her residency visa authorities told us it will cost Dh14,000,” said the young woman who did not want to be named. She said they cannot pay so much and neither can they send the maid home.

When this XPRESS journalist, posing as a resident wanting to sponsor a housemaid, checked with Abu Dhabi Immigration, a staff confirmed they were rejecting applications in which the minimum salary is not mentioned.

However, the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA), Abu Dhabi was not immediately available for a comment.

Families who sponsor a housemaid have two months to apply for their residency visa after they enter the UAE. The visa applications must be submitted along with a copy of her medical test, health insurance and Emirates ID.

Respective embassies have to attest a job contract if expatriates or Emiratis wish to sponsor their citizens as housemaids.

For example, to recruit Indian housemaids, the Indian embassy or consulate has to attest the maid’s job contract that mentions her monthly salary (Dh1,100) and other benefits. Also, the maid’s contract with the Indian embassy requires the sponsors to pay a refundable deposit of Dh9,200 to the embassy.

The sponsor also has to incur the cost of the medical test (Dh350), health insurance (Dh600) and Emirates ID (Dh400).

Minimum salary

But when it comes to the visa application fee, typing centres often mention a bare minimum of Dh400 in order to reduce the application fee. Since it is not mandatory to submit the embassy job contract along with the visa application, the original salary of the maid cannot be verified at the GDRFA.

An Indian embassy official told XPRESS that they do not cross-check visa applications and hence have no control over what is mentioned in the application.

Many families said if the increased charges are imposed, it will put them in a tight spot.

“I have had a housemaid for the last five years. If the cost of renewing her visa is going up by two or three times, I have no other option but to send her back to India. That actually means I have to quit my job,” said Sangeetha Mathur, an Indian working woman in Abu Dhabi.

Nihal Rakesh, a businessman, said the new rule will potentially ruin many working women’s careers. “Many women can afford to work because they have maids to take care of their children. Sponsoring a maid is already a complicated and expensive process in the UAE,” said Rakesh.

Recruitment of Nepali housemaids put on hold

Dubai Recruitment of Nepalese housemaids in the UAE and other countries has been put on temporary hold from April 17, according to a notice posted on the Nepal Embassy website.

A senior Nepal embassy official said the move is aimed at restructuring the hiring process of maids and preparing them better for the job through training programmes.

Housemaids seeking jobs outside Nepal must undergo a mandatory 21-day training programme in their home country.

“The training is imparted by private firms in Nepal. Our Ministry of Labour and Employment is working with these companies to make the training programmes more effective. We have stopped issuing labour permits for now. I cannot give a timeline as to when it will start again, but hopefully it will be soon,” Dhananjay Jha, Nepal Ambassador to UAE, told XPRESS.

Applications for housemaids received before April 17, however, have been approved. Jha said the new move will not effect maids already working in the UAE.

According to the Embassy in Abu Dhabi there are around 2,800 registered Nepalese housemaids in the UAE. “We don’t have the figures of those who come through touts,” said Jha.

Dubai to tap into Africa growth via key investments

Mohammad welcomed the participants and said the UAE is a link between African countries and other countries around the worldDubai: The Dubai government is turning its attention to Africa in a bid to cash in on the world’s second most populous continent through a series of key strategic investments. The message was clear at the Africa Global Business Forum in Dubai held on Wednesday. In what may have been a clear sign of Dubai’s intentions, Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, sat in on the forum during a panel discussion featuring the Presidents of Ghana, Ethiopia and Rwanda.
Shaikh Mohammad received African leaders and officials participating in the forum, and expressed his satisfaction that Presidents of African nations have chosen Dubai as the host city for the forum. He also reaffirmed that the UAE welcomes cooperation with African countries, and said that the UAE is ready to share with brotherly countries and peoples its expertise in development, knowledge-based economy and technology.
Shaikh Mohammad welcomed the participants and stressed that the UAE is a link between African countries and other countries around the world, particularly Europe.
He added that such meetings and forums provide an opportunity for the exchange of expertise between various nations, creates new opportunities for investment and strong economic and investment partnerships.
ICD deals
Mohammad Ebrahim Al Shaibani, head of the emirate’s sovereign wealth fund, Investment Corporation of Dubai (ICD), said on Wednesday that more deals are likely to follow last month’s $300 million (Dh1.1 billion) stake in Nigerian firm Dangote Cement.
“We have been looking at Africa for a long time. We are looking to do more with Dangote,” he said at the forum.
Dangote Cement has a market value of around $23 billion and its President and Chief Executive Aliko Dangote is Africa’s richest man. Dangote told Bloomberg on Wednesday that future deals with the ICD, could stretch into billions of dollars.
Al Shaibani said he was interested in agriculture and infrastructure projects while Dangote, which was also represented at the forum, told Bloomberg it has also agreed to invest in oil ventures.
Dubai, like many other investors, is eyeing opportunities in Africa that could represent a sizeable return. Earlier this week, Emirates, one of ICD’s crown jewels, announced on Tuesday it is taking over the management of Angola’s national airline, TAAG, in a ten-year deal with the African nation’s government.
DP World plans
Other state-owned companies also used the forum to earmark their intentions. DP World, one of the world’s largest port operators, has plans to develop a free zone in West African country, Senegal, the company’s Chairman, Sultan Ahmad Bin Sulayem said. Bin Sulayem did not elaborate on the companies intentions but said he is “definitely bullish” on Africa. He also said DP World “would go tomorrow” if an opportunity arose in Nigeria.
Tim Clark, Emirates president, meanwhile, told reporters at the forum that the Angolan government had directly approached Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation and Chairman and CEO of Emirates airline and Group (for the management deal). Clark also said that Emirates intends to fly to 30 destinations in Africa by the end of the decade. It currently operates to 22 African destinations.
Separately, flydubai announced on Wednesday the launch of flights to Entebe Uganda and Bujumbura in Burundi.
Earlier, Hamad Bu Amim, president and chief executive of Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, used his opening address to stress how seriously Dubai sees the African continent. “Future investment opportunities lie in Africa,” he said.
But during a panel session, attendees, many from Africa’s political and business landscape, were asked which country or region would contribute the most foreign investment to Africa in the coming decade. More than 60 per cent said China, which has made inroads throughout the continent funding infrastructure developments.

Kambi revokes firms’ licences over Middle East fiasco

NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 29 – Labour Cabinet Secretary Kazungu Kambi has revoked the licenses of private recruitment firms sending workers to the Middle East.

Kambi who made the announcement on Monday said the recruitment agencies would be required to re-apply for their licenses and undergo vetting in order to weed out unscrupulous middlemen who left the Kenyans they sent to the Middle East to suffer.

He told a news conference his decision was prompted by the recently reported claims of Kenyans labourers subjected to inhumane conditions once they arrived in the Middle East.

“Cases of mistreatment of Kenyan workers particularly house helps in the Middle East have been on the rise and continues to attract international and local attention,” he pointed out.

“The vulnerability of migrant workers to exploitation and abuse in the workplace is further compounded by the fact that many of them fear seeking redress from authorities. This is more so if their status in the country is irregular.”

He has therefore also banned the export of workers to the Middle East, “until further notice.”

What remains a challenge, Kazungu said is, “information on migrant’s workers who do not have proper documentation which make it difficult for the Government to offer them assistance.”

There are over 80,000 Kenyan workers in the Gulf region and the Middle East according to the Labour Cabinet Secretary, who said the number continues to increase.

“Migrant workers in such situations remain highly vulnerable hence the need for the Government to put in place appropriate measures to protect them.”

Kambi’s ban followed an announcement by Foreign Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed that the United Arab Emirates would soon be opening their biggest consulate in the world in Kenya.

A move that would enable them, recruit Kenyan labourers directly and lock out “those that take labourers outside and leave them there at the mercy of all the elements that are out there,” she said.

In June 2012, the government suspended the export of domestic workers to the UAE, pending the vetting of recruitment agencies, in response to complaints of cruelty.

“The Government has noted with concern, the increasing number of Kenyan citizens who have sought employment in the Middle East as domestic workers (Housekeepers/maids) and ended up in distress,” Political and Diplomatic Secretary, at the time, Patrick Wamoto said.

There are an estimated 40,000 Kenyans living and working in the UAE and there is a great demand still, Mohamed said, for Kenyan labourers: “We are exporting a lot of labour to the UAE including the request we have from Australia from Qatar for an additional one thousand workers.”

Kenyan association helps fight recruitment fraud

Abu Dhabi: Unscrupulous agents in Kenya are trying to cash in as more Kenyans choose to work and live in the UAE, community leaders say.

The Kenyan Welfare Association (Kewa) in the UAE is trying to raise awareness in the community about such dishonest people.

“They [unscrupulous agents] pose a major challenge to the Kenyan migrants,” said Pennina Nyokabi, Organising Secretary of the association.

Agents lure people with the promise of fabulous salaries and perks and many who leave their jobs in Kenya often get disappointed when they come to learn of their actual job profile and salary.

The agents have started targeting the recruitment of housemaids to the UAE, which has shown a surge of late. In the wake of Ethiopia’s ban on sending housemaids to the UAE and the toughening of rules in some other countries, Kenyan housemaids have started filling the vacuum in the job market.

“Three years ago there were not many Kenyan housemaids here,” Nyokabi said.

Agents lure women with good educational qualifications, offering them jobs in the hospitality industry, but the women are shocked to land a housemaid’s job after coming here. “We understand that the Kenyan government is working to address this issue,” she said.

Many new migrants are not aware of the UAE immigration rules, which the association is trying to address. Many people do not know that they cannot stay here without a job as their residence visa is issued only for a job. “We try to raise awareness on the fact that employees cannot break contractual obligations during the stipulated period,” she said.