U.S. State Department’s 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report 2013 [pdf] points to the shameful situation of forced labor, including nonpayment of wages, long working hours without rest, deprivation of food, and threats; as well as physical and, in particular, sexual abuse, and restrictions of movement in, well, all countries of the Middle East. Kuwait, for example, has been placed on Tier 3 for the 7th consecutive year (after tier 2, watch list in 2006). Countries placed on Tier 3 are those whose governments do not fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.
Countries whose governments fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards.
Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.
TIER 2 WATCH LIST
Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards AND: a) The absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is very significant or is significantly increasing; b) There is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of
trafficking in persons from the previous year; or c) The determination that a country is making signif icant ef for ts to bring itself into
compliance with minimum standards was based on commitments by the country to take additional future steps over the next year.
Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.
“Governments of countries on Tier 3 may be subject to certain sanctions, whereby the U.S. government may withhold or withdraw nonhumanitarian, non-trade-related foreign assistance. In addition, countries on Tier 3 may not receive funding for government employees’ participation in educational and cultural exchange programs. Consistent with the TVPA, governments subject to sanctions would also face U.S. opposition to assistance (except for humanitarian, trade-related, and certain development-related assistance) from international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
“No tier ranking is permanent. Each country, including the United States, can do more. All countries must maintain and increase efforts to combat trafficking.”
See the detailed reports here. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria and Iran all were ranked tier 3. The Emirates, Oman, and Qatar were placed on tier 2. As regards Kuwait,
“Many of the migrant workers arriving for work in Kuwait have paid exorbitant fees to recruiters in their home countries or are coerced into paying labor broker fees in Kuwait that, by Kuwaiti law, should be paid by the employer—a practice that makes workers highly vulnerable to forced labor, including debt bondage, once in Kuwait. The media reported that Kuwaiti employers brought unskilled workers into Kuwait on “commercial” visas without providing them with work permits; this left workers unprotected under labor regulations and vulnerable to abuse, including conditions of forced labor. Kuwait’s sponsorship law restricts workers’ movements and penalizes them for “running away” from abusive workplaces; as a result, domestic workers are particularly vulnerable to forced labor inside private homes. In addition, media sources report that runaway domestic workers fall prey to forced prostitution by agents or criminals who exploit their illegal status.
“During the reporting period, the government did not report any arrests, prosecutions, convictions, or sentences of traffickers for either forced labor or sex trafficking. Although the withholding of workers’ passports is prohibited under Kuwaiti law, this practice remains common among sponsors and employers of foreign workers, and the government demonstrated no genuine efforts to enforce this prohibition. Almost none of the domestic workers who took refuge in their homecountry embassy shelters had passports in their possession. The government remained reluctant to prosecute Kuwaiti citizens for trafficking offenses. When Kuwaiti nationals were investigated for trafficking offenses, they tended to receive less scrutiny than foreigners. Kuwaiti law enforcement generally treated cases of forced labor as administrative labor infractions, for which punishment was limited to assessing fines, shutting down employment firms, issuing orders for employers to return withheld passports, or requiring employers to pay back-wages. The government did not conduct anti-trafficking trainings for government officials during the reporting period.”
Kuwait’s English-language tabloid Arab Times at least reports on the shameful fact. A closer look at the newspaper’s page containing the main article reveals what’s up in the country otherwise. There seems to be a frenzy state of emergency in one of the richest autocracies in the world, one of the strongest allies of the United States. And, what amazes more, it is South Asian workforce which is mainly targeted. By raids, crackdowns, torture, deportation. Raids on “homos” and lesbians.
As one headline tells, the “[c]urrent situation of expats in Kuwait [is] similar to [a] scary movie.”
21 June 2013 @ 1:10 pm.
Last modified June 21, 2013
thank you for raising this very important subject. Here is a blog post I wrote about the situation for domestic workers in Kuwait: