Middle Eastern countries have fared poorly in the US State Department's latest report on human trafficking, released last week.
(M-R.org and Mideast Youth Readers may be interested to know that this is the first year that the US itself has been assessed for the report. Its scores were high but by no means perfect).
Forced labour, restrictions on movement, physical and sexual abuse and exploitation by recruitment brokers have emerged as region-wide trends. Women who migrate to the Gulf States to work as domestic workers are at particular risk of being trafficked.
Here are some extracts from the report on some of the countries that M-R.org follows:
Bahrain is a destination country for men and women subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced labor and prostitution. Men and women from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Ethiopia and Eritrea migrate voluntarily to Bahrain to work as domestic workers or unskilled laborers in the construction and service industries. Some, however, face conditions of forced labor after arriving in Bahrain, through use of such practices as unlawful withholding of passports, restrictions on movement, contract substitution, non-payment of wages, threats, and physical and sexual abuse.
“Israel is a destination country for men and women subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced labor and forced prostitution. Low-skilled workers from Thailand, China, Nepal, the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, and, to a lesser extent, Romania and Turkey, migrate voluntarily and legally to Israel for contract labor in construction, agriculture, and home health care provision. Some, however, subsequently face conditions of forced labor, including through such practices as the unlawful withholding of passports, restrictions on movement, inability to change or otherwise choose one’s employer, non-payment of wages, threats, and physical intimidation. Many labor recruitment agencies in source countries and in Israel require workers to pay recruitment fees typically ranging from $1,000 to $10,000, although Chinese workers often paid more than $20,000 – a practice making workers highly vulnerable to trafficking or debt bondage once in Israel. Traffickers are usually the migrant workers’ legal employers and the recruitment agents in both Israel and in the migrants’ home countries. Women from the former Soviet Union and China are subjected to forced prostitution in Israel, although the number of women affected has declined since the passage and implementation of Israel’s 2006 anti-trafficking bill. A small number of Israeli women are trafficked within the country for commercial sexual exploitation.”
“Kuwait is a destination country for men and women, some of whom are subsequently subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced labor. The majority of trafficking victims are from among the approximately 550,000 foreign women recruited for domestic service work in Kuwait. Men and women migrate from India, Egypt, Bangladesh, Syria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Nepal, Iran, Jordan, and Iraq to work in Kuwait, most of them in the domestic service, construction, and sanitation industries. Although these migrants enter Kuwait voluntarily, upon arrival some are subjected to conditions of forced labor by their sponsors and labor agents, including through such practices as non-payment of wages, threats, physical or sexual abuse, and restrictions on movement, such as the withholding of passports. Labor recruitment agencies and their subagents at the community level in South Asia may coerce or defraud workers into accepting work in Kuwait that turns out to be exploitative and, in some instances, constitutes involuntary servitude.
In some cases, arriving migrant workers have found the terms of employment in Kuwait are wholly different from those they agreed to in their home countries, making them vulnerable to human trafficking. As a result of such contract fraud, the Government of Indonesia in October 2009 banned further migration of domestic workers to Kuwait. Some 600 Indonesian domestic workers sought refuge in the Indonesian embassy in Kuwait in the last year; some of these domestic workers may have been victims of trafficking. Some of these workers arrive in the country to find their promised jobs do not exist. Many of the migrant workers arriving for work in Kuwait have paid exorbitant fees to recruiters in their home countries – a practice making workers highly vulnerable to forced labor once in Kuwait. Some unscrupulous Kuwaiti sponsors and recruiting agents prey on some of these migrants by charging them high amounts for residency visas, which foreign workers are supposed to receive for free. Adult female migrant workers are particularly vulnerable and consequently are often victims of nonconsensual commercial sexual exploitation and forced prostitution. Some domestic workers have fled from employers, and subsequently have been coerced into prostitution.”