The Kenyan government will dispatch a fact-finding mission to the Lebanese capital to look into reports of mistreatment at the country’s consulate, according to a government official.
Kenya’s embassy in Kuwait, which oversees the country’s consulate in Lebanon, will send officials to Beirut during the first week of August, Chief Information Officer at Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Jane Kariuki told CNN.
Earlier this week, CNN reported allegations of abuse at the Kenyan consulate in Beirut, which is tasked with protecting upwards of 1,000 expats in the country.
Multiple women told CNN they were exploited, verbally abused or physically assaulted by Kenya’s Honorary Consul in Lebanon, Sayed Chalouhi, and his assistant, Kassem Jaber, both Lebanese nationals. Four women also said they witnessed Chalouhi suggesting that Kenyan women seek sex work in order to cover their consular expenses.
All of the witnesses said Chalouhi and Jaber regularly overcharge Kenyan women for consular fees.
At least one Kenyan woman was arrested by Lebanese police at the consulate after an altercation with Chalouhi, according to the woman, witnesses and a police report.
Assistant consul Jaber denied all allegations of wrongdoing, and claimed that the police arrested the woman without the honorary consul’s permission. A police source said security forces entered the consulate with the agreement of Chalouhi.
Authorities in a host country are not allowed to enter a consulate or embassy without the agreement of the head of the diplomatic mission, according to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.
Chalouhi is Kenya’s official representative in Lebanon, though he is not a Kenyan citizen, nor a career diplomat. A Lebanese lawyer, he was appointed by Nairobi to lead the country’s diplomatic mission as honorary consul.
Many Kenyan migrants in Lebanon are domestic workers who are sponsored to be in the country under the controversial Kefala system, a form of indentured servitude which ties the woman’s immigration/residency status to a live-in work contract.
When CNN reached out to the Kenyan embassy in Kuwait about the allegations of mistreatment at the Beirut consulate, Kenyan Ambassador to Kuwait Halima Mohamud said her mission was in “constant communication with the Consulate in Beirut” and 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,” said Mohamud.
Chalouhi has not responded to CNN’s requests for comment.
Dozens of Kenyans on social media, sharing the CNN report, called on their country’s foreign affairs ministry to look into the accusations of abuse.