By Majd Othman
KUWAIT: Work scams are a global issue that many people, especially those with low incomes, fall victim to. While governments are actively combating this problem, Kuwait is no exception. To shed light on this matter, Kuwait Times interviewed lawyer Thamer Al-Sanea, who emphasized the crucial information that workers need to be aware of before leaving their countries to avoid falling prey to fraudulent job agencies. Kuwait Times also spoke with a low-income worker who had been deceived by a recruitment agency in Kuwait.
S.A., a Bangladeshi female worker who lived in Kuwait for three years, shared her harrowing experience with a fraudulent employment agency. She endured severe financial crises and health problems, reaching a point where she wasn’t able to feed her child. During the initial months of her second pregnancy, she was also subjected to heavy workloads. S.A., who chose not to reveal her name for safety reasons, came to Kuwait to work as a cleaner through a local recruitment agency managed by both locals and expatriates.
They had promised her a monthly salary of KD 250, but upon arrival, she never received more than KD 100 every six months. Despite Kuwaiti labor laws being clear and supportive of such cases, she was afraid to file a complaint. The agency intimidated her and her colleagues, instructing them not to show up for work for extended periods. They threatened to report them as absent from work if they sought help from authorities, which could lead to deportation and loss of unpaid wages. She lamented that their situation desperately required the assistance of a lawyer, but they couldn’t afford one.
Three years later, S.A. discovered she was pregnant again. Her husband faced a similar plight as they had both come to Kuwait through the same recruitment agency. The agency continued to subject them to heavy work, even tasks as physically demanding as lifting tables on stairs, endangering her pregnancy. To safeguard her unborn child, she relinquished her unpaid wages and approached the agency, which held her passport, pleading for her deportation. However, they refused unless she paid KD 1,000, which she managed to scrape together through a loan from her home country and borrowing money from friends. Finally, she left Kuwait.
This is just one of the many situations expatriate laborers in Kuwait face as they strive to improve their financial condition. Despite Kuwaiti law being both flexible and stringent in combating such companies, these issues have persisted, particularly in recent years. Lawyer Sanea told Kuwait Times that despite the government’s efforts to reduce the number of entities involved in human trafficking, some individuals continue to fall victim to these fraudulent agencies and companies.
He emphasized that any company demanding money from workers to secure a Kuwaiti visa is likely fraudulent. Due to their lack of awareness, these workers become easy targets for scammers. Sanea further pointed out that Kuwait’s primary focus in combating human trafficking should be to increase awareness among workers. He called upon the government to set up a complaint hotline for low-income laborers and provide them with brochures or guides outlining their rights and obligations under Kuwaiti labor laws.