Strict Entry Rules in US & UK Push Kenyan Job Seekers to Gulf Countries – Report

The World Migration Report 2024 has revealed the top destinations for Kenyan and African migrants looking for greener pastures.

According to the report, some of the reasons Kenyans are leaving the country are unemployment, climate change, and violence.

The report revealed that the Gulf region was the key destination for Kenyans looking to work abroad. Kenyans are lucky to gain access to work in the hospitality, security, construction and retail sectors.

With this, Gulf countries have overtaken the United Kingdom and the United States which were previously competing for the top destination for Kenyans and Africans.

President William Ruto (left) with British PM Rishi Sunak in Dubai on the sidelines of COP28.


UK Embassy

Additionally, the Gulf is close to Africa making it easier for migrants to gain access. The cost of travelling is also lower compared to travelling to countries in the west.

“The Gulf’s proximity, coupled with the increasing difficulty of gaining entry to previously traditional destination countries (for example, the United Kingdom and the United States), have made GCC States attractive labour migration options,” reads part of the report.

This move to the East is a result of numerous factors such as ease in gaining entry to some countries. Some of the countries in the West have different entry requirements which may slow down or hinder travel.

Another reason for the rampant migration is the existence of numerous recruitment agencies in Kenya and other East African countries which facilitate the travel of more Kenyans.

Also, the Kenyan government has several bilateral labour agreements with some Gulf countries which creates regulations governing the employment of Kenyans in the countries.

“Regular and irregular labour migration from Eastern Africa to the Gulf are both prevalent and have increased over time, making the eastern corridor one of the busiest maritime migration routes in the world,” reads part of the report.

As more Kenyans go to the Gulf region, the country gets more remittances amounting to billions. Data from the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) indicate that Saudi Arabia is among the top three sources of remittances to Kenya.

Between January and August 2023, Kenyans in Saudi Arabia sent back Ksh32.3 billion (USD246 million) compared to Ksh203.8 billion (USD1.55 billion) from the US and Ksh30 billion (USD228.6 million) from the UK.

In January, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development in Saudi Arabia cut the hiring for Kenyan domestic workers from 462,302 (SR10,870) to Ksh382,700 (SR9,000). This further entices more Kenyans to travel, seeking employment in the country.

However, it is worth noting that Kenyans in the Gulf countries have complained of different forms of abuse including physical and sexual violence, restriction of freedom, abusive and coercive employment practices and deceptive, unfair and unsafe work environments.

In response to these complaints, the government has introduced new measures to protect Kenyans working abroad, especially in Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, per the report citizens from Uganda and Ethiopia are also going to the region in high numbers.  

Labour Cabinet Secretary Florence Bore


Ministry of Labour and Social Protection

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