Survivor story: Annette*

Annette is a mother of 3, separated with her two previous husbands. She is an Information Technology graduate and was working in clearing and forwarding sector at the Mombasa port. She met a recruitment agent while in Mombasa in the course of her work, after separating with her second husband in 2010. Before relocating to Mombasa, Annette had been living with her mother in Nyeri where life had become quite challenging since she had no job and yet she had a family to feed.

She recalls that the recruitment agent had promised her a lucrative opportunity in Qatar. In December 2010, Annette she was asked to go for a medical examination (chest and pregnancy). On arrival at the designated medical facility, she only did the pregnancy test and was asked not to worry about the chest X-ray. The agent told her that the results had already been sent to her would-be employer and that in any case, she looked healthy, according to him. The following day, her travel documents were sent to her on email and she was asked to meet the agent at the KENCOM bus stage ready to proceed to the airport. To her shock, when she arrived at KENCOM stage, she met other six women yet she had all along believed that she was the only one. On arrival at JKIA, the seven they were all given brown envelopes and off they disappeared to the back end of the waiting lounge.

It was only when Annette opened her envelope (inside the waiting lounge) that she got to know that she wasn’t going to Qatar anymore but to Lebanon with one other from the group while the rest were destined for Saudi Arabia.

The group had a stop-over at Dubai where they connected their flight to Beirut. While at the waiting area in Dubai, Annette says, “I met other Kenyan women at the Dubai international airport who were enroute back to Nairobi from Lebanon. They looked worn out and emaciated. Seeing them like that, it gave me jitters, it made her scared.”  Later on, they flew to Beirut where they would meet their sponsors and would-be employers. They picked her up even as she kept asking where she was being taken to without a response. The sponsor eventually got annoyed and beat and locked her up in a room. She was later picked up and taken to the agent’s office in Lebanon. While at the office, her employer explained to her that he had paid a 2000USD to bring her to Lebanon to work as a house help at her sister’s house. Annette had no option but to agree to work for a salary of 200USD per month.

At her first house, the family couldn’t understand her due to language barrier which resulted to Annette getting physically assaulted by the lady of the house. Annette later learnt Arabic but things didn’t change hence, she asked to be taken back to the agent. The employer obliged and took her back at the agent’s office where she demanded to be taken back to Kenya but was told to pay the 2000USD for buying price. She stayed at the office for 3 months before getting her second employer. Her stint at the first house was rewarding since she got paid for all months worked. She was able to send some money back home to her mother.

While at the office Janet was denied food, locked up in the office alongside another Kenyan lady. She was eventually taken to a 2nd house. The house had an old couple who suffered from chronic illnesses. The boss at the second house was very arrogant towards her. He didn’t even tell her what her salary was to be. He told her that she didn’t have the mandate to ask how much she would be paid. Annette was badly mistreated (physically assaulted, denied food and worked for long hours). She worked here for 6 months, and tried to escape but was arrested and taken back. She reluctantly continued working as she plotted another escape. Through the help of an Egyptian mechanic, she was able to escape. The Egyptian man helped her get a temporary place to stay where she also got an opportunity to start working at a hotel as an illegal migrant, since she did not have her travel documents. She worked at the hotel for few a months before she was stopped on the claim an impending crackdown on illegal migrant workers. The job loss forced Annette to rely on part time jobs. She volunteered to work for the Kenyan consulate at Beirut at no pay hoping to meet the consular and plead for her freedom back home.

While volunteering at the Kenyan consulate, Annette was able to resolve cases and helped fellow Kenyan migrants and the Consulate as well. She was able to hold forums for the migrant workers to air out their challenges and help each other know how to navigate them. One of the many cases Janet was able to support was concerning the death of one Kenyan migrant worker who lost her life under unclear circumstances. She was able to investigate and found out that she had lost her life due to loss of blood following a procured abortion. It is through this case that Annette got an opportunity to meet the consulate who helped her get back to Kenya through deportation.

On arrival back in Kenya, Annette met her family members but she was heart-broken when she saw the condition of her son who looked unkempt and under fed. She even realized that the son was no longer going to school due to lack of school fees.

Annette got depressed and got into drugs and alcohol. She cut all contact with her mother and family. She recently reunited with her family but still struggles with where to start from. She now has two young kids. Her mother still resents her and she feels she like she is the cause of all her troubles. Annette has never received psychosocial support, yet she is in dire need of an IGA to support her family and her kids in high school.

Annette* - not her real name


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