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The Danger Within By Wanja Kimani (Currently Detained In Sakan In Saudi Arabia)

When I say am locked up, detained or simply “held" in a deportation centre, it's rare that Antanimora or San Pedro would cross your mind. Truth is, there isn't much difference between “office accommodation”, a deportation centre and a typical prison. Some prisons are even better because they give a monthly stipend in addition to offering vocational training to the prisoners.

A Group Of Kenyan Domestic Workers Detained In Saudi Arabia Crying For Help

The moment we landed in Riyadh and rode the bus to the office accommodation, we felt privileged to know that we were shielded from the hot desert sun, the shifting sand that is always a nuisance, and of course, Covid-19! Things started changing when all communication was done in an unreasonably loud tone, in Arabic! I found it very unethical but this was not home; one thing for sure though, I was not willing to “do what the Romans do.” I mean, a point will still be taken even without that much shouting.

The Late Maximillan Muhanda, Another Kenyan We Lost In Saudi Arabia Last Month

Our phones were then taken away. We did not see them nor use them for the next several days that followed. Before leaving Kenya most, if not all of us got fake Covid-19 certificates. Sadly, a repeat medical check revealed that 5 of us were sick with Covid-19, yet at the accommodation, we interacted so freely and even shared beds (read, mattresses on the floor)! It is by God's grace that only a few of us were sick.

In that accommodation, food was so little. I remember sharing one fried egg among three ladies! I see the same issue being shared by so many women that are stuck in these office accommodation centres, and I can't help but feel sad for them. The disease spreads so fast in such places given that there is no separation between the sick ladies and the ones that are well and whole. They use the same washrooms and need I talk about ventilation (or lack thereof)?

Many ladies have run away from abusive employers, hoping that the office will intervene and help them. On the contrary, they are beaten senseless in these same offices, and because their phones are confiscated it is not possible to call for help on time! Same case with those that have been picked by their offices from the deportation centres. Other than being beaten, they are made to start the contracts afresh, after waiting in the accommodation for months, in those same dehumanizing conditions.

I am currently detained at a centre called SAKAN, among many more women. With the possibility of being taken back to the office, the fear of false accusations from the bitter bosses and the uncertainty of when “we will go back home; I cannot clearly answer when asked, “Wanja, are you safe?” With the pressure of providing to our dependants at home, yet we are locked up here- no income and the source of income seems like a death trap- the desperation leads to demonstrations. Anarchy, to say the least. Suicide. Escaping to find a life outside. It won't be long before the police

catch up and bring “us" back here. Another vicious cycle.

“Wanja, are you safe?” I also am not sure. Because of the danger within.

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