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Middle East, Middle East labour laws, labour laws, UN's labour agency, International Labour Organisation, Tricked and Trapped: Human Trafficking in the Middle East, kafala, Frank Hagemann
Some women who have migrated to work as domestic workers, nurses, teachers or waitresses, “are abducted upon arrival by their freelance agents and obliged to provide commercial sexual services to clients out of private or isolated apartments or villas.” -File photo by Reuters

AMMAN: An estimated 600,000 people have been “tricked and trapped” into forced employment in the Middle East, many of them also sexually exploited, the UN's labour agency said on Tuesday. The International Labour Organisation, issuing the findings of a two-year study based on 650 interviews, called for an overhaul of employment practices in the region, notably an end to the “kafala” system of sponsorships.Kafala, mostly prevalent in Arab states east of Egypt, which are home to more than 12 million foreign workers, requires all such labourers to have in-country sponsors, usually their employers, who are responsible for their visa and legal status.

“Labour migration in this part of the world is unique in terms of its sheer scale and its exponential growth in recent years,” said Beate Andrees, head of an ILO programme to combat forced labour.

“The challenge is how to put in place safeguards in both origin and destination countries to prevent the exploitation and abuse of these workers,” she said at the opening of a two-day conference on the issue in Amman, Jordan.

The 150-page report entitled “Tricked and Trapped: Human Trafficking in the Middle East” was based on research carried out in Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.

“Although data is scarce, the ILO estimates that there are 600,000 forced labour victims in the Middle East,” it said.

The study singled out the kafala system, saying it was “inherently problematic” because it created an unequal power dynamic between employers and workers.

“Reforming the kafala system would significantly improve labour migration governance in this regard,” it said.

The study addressed the issue of animal herders, who are recruited from many Asian countries, including Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

“Several migrants interviewed by the research team had originally been recruited as domestic workers but later were moved on to work as animal herders, taking care of sheep, camels and other livestock out in the desert,” it said.

“The vulnerability to debt was highlighted by the results of a survey of Asian workers in Qatar: Half of those interviewed had paid recruiting agencies a fee before leaving home; the average fee was 2,000 Qatari rials ($550), and some had paid much more, putting themselves deep in debt.”

The report said the research team found evidence that showed “the particular vulnerability of Asian and African women migrant workers to deceived and coerced into sexual exploitation.”

Some women who have migrated to work as domestic workers, nurses, teachers or waitresses, “are abducted upon arrival by their freelance agents and obliged to provide commercial sexual services to clients out of private or isolated apartments or villas.”

The study criticised as insufficient laws that “reinforce underlying vulnerabilities of migrant workers” and restrict their ability to terminate employment contracts and to change employers.

A lack of inspections kept domestic workers isolated and heightened their “vulnerability to exploitation,” said the study, warning against “the real risks of detention and deportation for workers who are coerced into sex work”.

In male-dominated economic sectors such as construction, manufacturing, seafaring and agriculture, “workers are routinely deceived with respect to living and working conditions, the type of work to be performed, or even the existence of a job at all,” it said.

“Human trafficking can only be effectively tackled by addressing the systemic gaps in labour migration governance across the region,” said Frank Hagemann, ILO deputy regional director for Arab states.

Comments (11) Closed

Irony Apr 09, 2013 04:35pm
EVerybody in south asia is aware of this. Nobody dares to talk about it.
Ali Apr 09, 2013 05:19pm
No more 'Muhammad' is coming to teach humanity to these barbarians called 'Arabs'. May GOD give them some decency.
pankajdehlavi Apr 09, 2013 05:36pm
Why there total silence on this issue....... "Itna sannata kyun hey bhai"
Thoughtful Apr 09, 2013 10:40pm
Before any reform can take place in the Middle East, the ignorant, tribal, and stone age Arabs need to be taught to behave like humans. Even in this age and time, most of the Arabs have animal instincts and their actions and behavior is simply appalling to modern civilized culture.
Muhib Apr 09, 2013 11:07pm
Instead of going to Arab lands one should stay where they are with patience....
Syed Apr 10, 2013 05:16am
We who lived and worked all our lives there, already knew this, its about time someone brought it onto the international stage, when it comes to labour laws and security, Middle East has broken every rule in the book, they know it, yet they wont do anything cause profits are too big to ignore.
AGK Apr 10, 2013 09:17am
When Pakistanis consider themselves as pure descendants of the Arabs, why are they been treated unfairly in the Middle East? Aren't you supposed to be considered as equals and offered visa free entry, equal employment opportunities and perks, right to own propoerty, obtain citizenship etc. In addition all of you belong to same faith. (that according to you all is supposed to be the single binding factor) Why this discrepancy? On the contrary, the west which you hate the most permits you all those rights (citizenship/right to property).Not to mention, you make full use/misuse of those rights. Wake up from your dream and wash your face. Come to terms with reality
AHA Apr 10, 2013 05:33pm
Inhumanity is the norm in the Middle East. They practice slavery in this era. But every one already knows that. So why is that a news at all?
AHA Apr 10, 2013 05:35pm
Makes one wonder, why???
Imran A. Apr 10, 2013 07:51pm
This story is so true... I knew of such girl who was enticed that she would become a secretary. In the beginning, they gave her a 5 star treatment, with all the luxuries possible. Then slowly the other women who are sex slaves slowly start to educate her in the process of sex job. In about 2 months, a decent girl is convinced that she needs to take care of her family back home. It's a perfect science. And if she wants to leave, she is threatened that they will hurt her family back home. Usually they target women who are divorced or widowed, no brothers etc and have no money to take care of their child. And if she wants to leave, she has no place to go or the ticket to fly back. It's a perfect trap. I can't tell you how shameless the Arabs are. If you only knew their true colors. Islam for them is just a subject of discussion to display that it is superior to other religions. I truly wish somehow, they loose their oil money and what's worse, they have introduced their version of Islam into our country with the motto of Sharia law. We Muslims of India and Pakistan had no connection to their version of Islam. We converted through love that Sufis shared with us. One day, this war to go back to Middle East.
Fazal karim Apr 11, 2013 12:04am
The Arab rulers of oil rich Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait have tarnished the name of Islam. Who will believe Islam teaches, rather orders equality of all men and women. These rulers are jhannumi. What is UNO and so called civilized west doing. If UNO and west impose sanctions on these Arab states and stop protecting the rulers, human rights. violations will be greatly reduced.