Nairobi — A Kenyan domestic worker in Saudi Arabia was attacked by her employer with a kitchen knife and stabbed eight times before wresting the knife from him, The Star newspaper reported on Tuesday.
After recovering in hospital, she was taken to a desert jail where she met many other foreigners, including about 20 other Kenyans, who had also been badly treated by employers and were awaiting repatriation, the paper said.
Many Kenyans go to the Middle East to find work but some are exploited in domestic servitude, brothels, massage parlours or in forced manual labour.
The woman, known as Naomi, found work in Saudi Arabia through a Nairobi-based recruitment agency but left her employer after being attacked, insulted, overworked and having her mobile phone confiscated.
She was found a new job, but while her elderly new employer's wife was out, he forced his way into Naomi's room with a knife and cigarette lighter and attacked her, she said.
"I pleaded with him not to kill me, but he stabbed me eight times in the waist and the back even as I hopelessly screamed for help," she told the newspaper.
When she seized his knife, the man burned her hands with a cigarette and lighter, stopping only when his wife returned, it said. Naomi was sent to hospital for treatment and then to the desert prison.
"The jail is supposed to hold foreigners for their own protection until they receive an air ticket either from their families or reluctant agents," she told the paper.
In the jail, in Sakakah in northern Saudi Arabia, she met other stranded Kenyans. Unable to contact their embassy in the capital, Riyadh, they can get home only when another Kenyan leaves and informs their families of their plight, it said.
The Kenyan government rescued more than 800 of its citizens from Saudi jails in 2013, it added. The government has faced accusations of failing adequately to monitor overseas recruitment agencies.
The government banned Kenyans in June 2012 from going to the Middle East as domestic workers, but lifted the ban in November 2013.
The Kenyan labour ministry said that it had inspected 389 out of an estimated 500 labour recruitment agencies in 2013, the 2014 U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons report said.