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Migrant workers continue to commit suicide at an alarming rate in Kuwait

On June 5, 2010

Over the month of May, 17 migrant workers have attempted or committed suicide in Kuwait according to a survey of newspaper reports from the country; two maids were injured while trying to escape their sponsor's house. This is an escalation of a trend we've been monitoring for quite some time on During April, 12 migrant workers attempted or succeeded in ending their lives in Kuwait. During March and the end of February, there were 13 reported cases of suicide and suicide attempt by migrants in the emirate. And during November of 2008 we've covered another 13 cases of suicide and attempted suicides by expatriate workers. Workers are often driven to suicide by harsh living and working conditions, abuse and non-payment of wages.

On May 5, an Ethiopian maid suffered severe injuries and fractures after jumping off the second floor from her sponsor's house in the Abdullah Al-Mubarak area. On the next day, an unidentified security guard (a job generally performed by migrants) at an unknown university attempted suicide by slitting his right wrist. The man was taken to Amiri hospital for medical care. On May 8, a 23-year-old Ethiopian maid jumped out of her sponsor's house on the second floor in Abu Hulaifa in an attempt to kill herself. The maid sustained several injuries and was taken to the hospital.

On May 14 three suicide attempts by migrant workers were recorded: an Egyptian men attempted to commit suicide by swallowing an unknown chemical. He was admitted to the Mubarak hospital in critical condition. Meanwhile, policemen in the Mubarak al-Kabeer area managed to stop a maid from committing suicide with a knife. On the same day a 25-year-old Filipino worker jumped off the second floor in her sponsor's house in Fahaheel. The maid asked her sponsor to let her leave her job because she was mistreated by them and received a better job offer. However, the sponsor refused telling the maid that she knew that she'll be working as a maid, and she should do her job without complaining. The night after the argument the maid left a suicide note and attempted to kill herself.

On May 19, a Nepalese maid (34) ended her life by hanging in her sponsor's house in Umm Al-Haiman. On the same day, a 36-year-old domestic worker of unknown nationality attempted to kill herself by overdosing on drugs in her sponsor's house in Rehab. On the next day, May 20, an 34-year-old Indian man committed suicide by hanging in his home in Old Khaitan. On the same day, an Indian woman (36) attempted suicide by setting herself on fire in Khaitan. On the next day, the Arab Times reported that a Sri-Lankan maid in her 40s suffered severe injuries and fractures after she jumped out of her employer's home in an attempt to abscond. On the same day, a 36-year-old Indian man attempted to end his life by setting himself on fire in Sulaibiya. Still on that day an Asian maid was taken to the Jahra hospital after attempting suicide by setting herself on fire. Not a day later, on May 22, two maids ended their lives in Kuwait. A 30-year-old Indian maid hanged herself to death in her sponsor's house in Adan, and a Nepalese housemaid committed suicide by hanging in her employer's residence in Oyoun, Jahra. The next day, May 23, a Sri-Lankan woman (33) attempted suicide by slitting her wrists in her employer's home in Mubarak al-Kabeer area.

On May 26, an Indian housemaid in her 30s suffered fractured after jumping from her sponsor's house in Sabah Al-Salem. According to the newspaper report, she was attempting to abscond. On May 30, a Nepalese maid (24) slit her left wrist in her sponsor's house in Rehab and was taken to the hospital. An Ethiopian man in his 30s hanged himself to death in a farm in Kabad on the same day.

As we've noted, domestic workers, the most vulnerable of migrant workers, are excluded from the protection of Kuwait labor laws. Kuwaiti papers, like most regional papers, mention suicides by workers in just a few sentences, never bothering to find out the names of the victims. The reports are hidden in the least-read pages and often hint that the cause of suicide was mental illness of the victim and not abuse she or he suffered at the hand of their sponsors.