Manama: Kenya has unexpectedly announced a decision to freeze the recruitment of its workers to the Middle East, Saudi and Kenyan media have reported.

Citing numerous mistreatment claims, the Kenyan labour ministry has also suspended the operations of all the recruitment agencies in the country and stopped their operations with immediate effect, KBC broadcaster reported.

Labour Cabinet Secretary Kazungu Kambi said most of the 930 companies have continued to mislead job seekers, prompting the government to take measures to streamline the industry.

The decision to freeze the recruitment and suspend the licences was taken in the wake of reports of maltreatment of Kenyan domestic workers in Middle East countries.

The companies are responsible for exporting more than 80,000 Kenyans to the Middle East and Kambi said “the suffering of Kenyans living and working in the Middle East must come to an end.”

The Kenyan government is putting in place new regulations that will be used to scrutinise any organisation intending to recruit for the Arab labour market, KBC said.

However, David Njoroge, the director of an employment company in Kenya, said that the Middle East, specifically Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Gulf region, have employed many of Kenya’s youth who would otherwise be jobless.

Njoroge who has been in the job recruitment business for five years was responding to calls from politicians urging Kenyans seeking greener pastures to keep off Saudi Arabia claiming it is hostile, local daily The Star reported.

“Politicians should not brand Arab countries as killers because of the few recent cases of employers allegedly molesting their employees,” he said.

Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammad had said Saudi Arabia was a key partner in creating jobs for Kenya, the daily added.

In the Saudi capital Riyadh, a report said that around 200,000 Kenyans with salaries of around SR800 (Dh780) a month were currently employed as domestic helpers in the kingdom.

“With the increasing demand for domestic helpers, employers are waiting for the decision to allow recruitment from Bangladesh and Nepal,” Al Riyadh said. “Such a step to open up new markets will help meet the increasing demands.”