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Death at a Saudi deportation center

A Kenyan domestic worker died at a Saudi deportation center in October 2021. Her family is struggling to understand what happened and to repatriate her remains.

On December 27, 2021

Subject: Repatriation of remains

Date: 22 Dec 2021

Holiness Wawuda left Kenya for Saudi Arabia in 2014 in pursuit of work as a domestic worker. She has been living there since then, till the time of her death. Her visa must have expired (the family does not have full details) after two years. She however chose to stay in Saudi, on and off jobs as a domestic worker. The reason she stayed is that she was solely responsible for her kids’ welfare and schooling. Her late husband never used to assist her in taking care of her kids. She really hoped to educate her kids and give them a better life.

She was arrested (due to having no documents/visa) on 30 September 2021 alongside others and was kept at TARHIL DEPORTATION CENTER waiting to be deported. Her death only came to light after her friend arrived in Kenya on 28 October 2021. Information given is that she passed on the 13 October 2021 while at the deportation centre and her remains are being kept at Shemesi Hospital in Saudi Arabia. (I have attached posts posted on social media that were used to find the family members.) I am her niece. Holiness was my mother’s younger sister.

I visited the Saudi Arabian embassy, who told me to go to the Diplomatic Police station. The Diplomatic Police station further directed me to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I was asked to write an email, (which I did) and followed up several times but never got any response.  Our family tried reaching out to the Saudi Arabian side, and we were asked to pay USD 4,000 for mortuary charges and freight charges. Family and friends have tried contributing but we have not reached the target yet.

The Kenyan embassy has not responded. We are still in the dark and don’t know how to deal with the situation.

Her children – Olive (21), Jotham (18) and Agatha (16) – were so excited when they heard that their mum was going to be deported. They were really looking forward to coming home for half-term to see their mum. Only to come and get news that she passed on and her body is still stuck in Saudi Arabia. They are now orphans as they lost their father in February 2021. In just one year, both parents, gone.

When the mother of Holiness heard of the news, she was devastated. She has and is still in shock and cries daily. Telling her that we have no news is the hardest thing to do of late.

We are requesting assistance to repatriate the remains so that we can bury her and start the healing process.


Serah Katini

Niece of Holiness, on behalf of Wawuda’s children

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