BUJUMBURA April 25th (ABP) – The National Assembly unanimously passed two bills on the ratification of the Agreement on the recruitment of domestic workers between the Republic of Burundi and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and on the recruiting of Workers between the same States.
Both bills were championed by the Minister of Interior, Community Development and Public Security, Mr. Gervais Ndirakobuca.
He said that the government of Burundi has taken into consideration the alarming situation of Burundian citizens in the Gulf countries and has taken appropriate measures to regulate the mobility of that workforce. Among those measures, there was the immediate suspension of all recruitment agencies that operated clandestinely, pending the establishment of structures responsible for monitoring Burundians going to work abroad from the recruitment process to the destination. According to him, that recommendation was formulated by the Council of Ministers, meeting on December 24, 2020, under the leadership of the President of the Republic. Thus, today, the Burundian government is in the process of providing guidelines with the aim of regulating this area.
He recalled that Burundi has been indexed several times by national and international human rights organizations as being a country conducive to human trafficking.
He noted that countries of origin, where well-coordinated, benefit from remittance flows and the transfer of investment, technology and essential skills when migrant workers return after their benefit. The government of the Republic of Burundi, aware of the advantages of migration but also concerned about meeting the challenges that arise, is at work to regulate that movement of labor through a binding legal framework with the countries of destination, between others the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for the interest of migrant workers, employers and the two States.
During the debates, the MPs raised many questions, particularly on the Kafala system in force in terms of labor in all the Gulf countries. That system consists of prohibiting workers from resigning, changing jobs, and even leaving the country without the authorization of the employer, to whom they often hand over their passports. This system gives rise to various abuses such as non-payment of wages, forced labor and even physical abuse. The minister reassured the deputies that this system will not be applied to Burundian migrant workers, because it is being abolished following the process of revising the Saudi labor code under which the termination of the employment contract by the foreign employee in Saudi Arabia will be permitted. In addition, said the minister, “our migrant workers will be sponsored by recruitment agencies recognized by the government of Burundi, which will in turn sign partnership contracts with Saudi recruitment agencies, also recognized by the State. Saudi. In addition, the wording of contract clauses should take into account the provisions contained in these agreements under which the obligations of each party are well defined, he added.
The MPs, not very convinced of the abolition of this practice which may still last a long time in the customs of these Gulf countries, suggested that Burundi set up a consulate in that country which will be responsible for questions of Burundian workers in, and provide it with a lawyer and a 24-hour communication system to help workers who are in difficulty.
Minister Ndirakobuca reassured them, arguing that all his questions have been discussed with the Saudi government, which has even proposed that there be a mechanism to assist domestic workers who are in need. He added that Burundi also intends to sign such agreements with the other Gulf countries and Zambia. In the latter country, he pointed out that the Burundians who work there are mistreated until, when they want to travel to Burundi, they are not allowed to have the amount of money on them, because they are limited.
Domestic workers working in Saudi Arabia are estimated at 6,700 according to Saudi statistics, it was said.
Minister Ndirakobuca pointed out that the agreement for the recruitment of domestic workers in Saudi Arabia has been dissociated from the other agreement on the recruitment of workers following the specificity of this domestic work which often involves girls and women. Burundians who require greater attention, but also because it is work that involves unskilled workers. He stressed that their passport will also be special with special mentions so that anyone who sees it knows that they are in front of a person who must be protected. The World Organization for Migration (IOM) is involved in that work, according to the minister.