KUWAIT: More than 30 women from Malawi are being repatriated after having been trafficked to Kuwait to work as domestic helpers. All of the women claim to have had their passports confiscated by employers. They say that they were tricked into believing they would be offered well paying jobs in Kuwait but were shocked to learn that they would be housemaids. So far at least four have been repatriated home, according to Malawi media. Most of the women have been reported as absconding and will be deported from Kuwait.
In May, dozens of women from Zimbabwe similarly appealed for help to return home after being tricked into domestic employment in Kuwait.
Kuwait is listed as a Tier 2 country in the US State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report, meaning that it is on a ‘watch list’ of trafficking destinations. Several nationalities including mostly workers from South and Southeast Asia are exploited and often trafficked under false pretenses to the country. Many have paid exorbitant recruitment fees to arrive in Kuwait and find no jobs waiting for them.
Several embassies including the Indian and Philippines embassies have institute rigorous recruiting and hiring protocols as a way to protect nationals from unscrupulous recruiting agents both in their home countries and in Kuwait.
As a result, in recent years, recruiters are shifting to African countries including Ethiopia, Kenya, Gambia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe for domestic helpers. They are often deceived regarding the work being offered in Kuwait, including wages, duties and types of employment and often have their passports seized upon arrival.
In general, many foreign laborers in Kuwait continue to face discrimination and abuse including non-payment of wages, long working hours without rest, deprivation of food, threats, physical or sexual abuse, and restrictions on movement, such as confinement to the workplace and the withholding of passports.
In June 2015, the government passed a new domestic labor law meant to ensure basic protections and rights for domestic laborers. However it has had limited effect in the market.
By Sara Ahmed