Kenya is poised to send officials to Lebanon to investigate allegations of physical assault and other forms of abuse of migrant workers at its consulate.
The East African nation’s embassy in Kuwait currently also oversees the Kenyan consulate in Lebanon but the consulate in Beirut has prime responsibility for protecting the 1,000-plus Kenyan citizens living in the country.
However, Kenya’s honorary consul in Lebanon, Sayed Chalouhi, has been accused of maltreating those he is meant to protect.
Four women told CNN that they witnessed Chalouhi suggesting to Kenyan women that they seek sex work in order to cover their consular expenses.
Others accused him and his assistant, Kassem Jaber, of verbal and physical assault, as well as overcharging for consular fees.
Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said a fact-finding mission will be dispatched to the Lebanese capital to investigate the allegations.
Although Chalouhi is Kenya’s official representative in Lebanon, he is not a citizen of Kenya. The legal practitioner was appointed by the Kenyan government to lead its diplomatic mission as honorary consul.
A Kenyan woman said she was arrested by Lebanese police at the consulate after an altercation with Chalouhi.
However, the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963 does not allow officials in a host nation to enter a consulate or embassy without the agreement of the head of the diplomatic mission.
CNN reports that a police source disclosed that security forces had sought and received permission from Chalouhi before entering the consulate to make the arrest.
Web of denial
Meanwhile, Kenya’s ambassador to Kuwait, Halima Mohamud, said she was in “constant communication with the consulate in Beirut”.
She told CNN that the “two institutions work committedly and tirelessly to enhance the welfare of Kenyans in Lebanon”.
“The honorary consul diligently attends to a variety of consular matters related to Kenyans in Beirut,” Mohamud added.
Most of the migrant Kenyans living in Lebanon do domestic work and other menial jobs to earn money to survive.
Ironically, many of them are sponsored to live in the Middle East under the controversial kefala system, which ties their residency status to a live-in work contract.
E A Alanore