Suicides among migrants in Kuwait persist at an alarming rate in June and July

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Aug 5 2010

Over the past two months, there have been 23 reported cases of suicide or attempted suicide by migrant workers in Kuwait, meaning that about every 2.5 days a migrant worker commits or attempts suicide in Kuwait. Migrant workers are often driven to suicide by harsh living and working conditions and abuse at the hand of their sponsors. To this day we've heard of zero cases where the sponsors of the workers faced consequences for driving their worker to suicide.

Previous reports by Migrant-Rights.org have exposed an alarming trend of suicides by migrant workers in Kuwait. In May 2010 alone, we documented 17 cases of suicide and attempted suicide by domestic workers in Kuwait. 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.

On June 2, an Asian maid killed herself by swallowing detergent in her sponsor's home in Waha, al-Jahra. On the same day, an unidentified woman attempted to kill herself by swallowing chemicals and was taken to the hospital where her stomach was washed. The fact that the paper did not bother identifying the woman indicates that she is a foreigner. On June 6 in was reported that an Asian woman jumped to her death from a residential building in al-Jahra. A day later, on June 7, it was reported that a Filipino maid threatened to kill herself after an argument with her sponsor's wife in their home in Ardiya. The security forces that arrived at the scene managed to talk the maid out of taking her life.

On June 9, a Filipina maid ended her life by jumping from the fifth floor of her sponsor's house in Hawali. Two days later, on June 11, a Filipina maid "fell" to her death from the fifth floor in her sponsor's house in Mahboula.

On June 14, a Sri-Lankan domestic worker hanged himself to death from the ceiling in his sponsor's home in Ferdous. A day later it was reported that a 26-year-old Ethiopian maid attempted to kill herself by swallowing poison. She was rushed to the hospital in time. The paper claimed that the maid suffered from psychological problems. The next day a 33-year-old Indian woman was rushed to the hospital after attempting to end her life by swallowing chemicals. On June 22, a 30-year-old Filipino housemaid attempted to kill herself by overdosing on pills. She was found unconscious and was rushed to the hospital in time.

The month of July began with a report on the 1st about the suicide of an Indian migrant in his apartment in Faranwiya. On July 3, an Asian domestic worker attempted to take her own life in her sponsor's house in Naim-Jahara by drinking insecticide. A day later, on July 4, an Ethiopian maid hanged herself to death shortly after arriving to her sponsor's house in al-Jahra.

On July 6, there were three reported cases of suicide by migrant workers. A 39-year-old Indian worker swallowed detergent and then sustained further severe injuries when falling from a building of a private university in Salmiya. The woman was rushed to the ICU in Mubarak al-Kabeer hospital. On the same day, al-Qabas daily reported about the suicide by hanging of an Asian worker in the office of a construction company he worked in, and the attempted suicide of an Ethiopian maid who swallowed insecticide in her sponsor's house in Naim-Jahra.

On July 16, a Filipino maid in her 30s was hospitalized for attempting to kill herself by overdosing on drugs. Three days later, on July 19, an Indonesian maid suffered several fractures after attempting to end her life by jumping off the third floor of her sponsor's home in the Sabah Al-Nasser area. The next day, a 35-year-old Asian man was taken to the Mubarak al-Kabeer hospital after slashing his right hand in an attempt to kill himself. Three days later, of July 22, it was reported that a 34-year-old Sri Lankan housemaid killed herself by jumping from the third floor of her sponsor's house in the Abdullah Mubarak area.

On July 24, a 23-year-old Nepalese domestic worker ended her life by hanging in her sponsor's house in Oyoun, al-Jahra. On the next day, a 30-year-old Nepalese maid hanged herself to death from a ceiling-fan in her sponsor's house in al-Jahra (report in Arabic contains disturbing photograph, beware). On July 29, an Asian man hanged himself to death from a ceiling fan in Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh. Once again, the report claims the victim suffered from psychological problems.

Reports about these miserable workers are pushed to the back pages of newspapers in Kuwait, and the Gulf region in general. The workers are nameless in their death as they are in their lives, with the papers not bothering to learn the name of the workers and sometimes even their age and nationality. Other than one report, no one in the Kuwaiti media tries to understand the reasons for this tragic phenomena. Reports suggest that the reason for suicides are psychological problems of the victims, without trying to understand what about the treatment of the sponsor leads these migrant workers to suicide en masse.

Domestic workers in Kuwait are excluded from the protection of its labor laws. A recent U.S. State Department report detailed the conditions many migrant workers are subjected to in Kuwait:

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.

Given this type of treatment, many workers see no choice out of their desperate situation other than taking their lives.

Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East