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Suicide of Detained Migrant Prompts Investigation

On October 23, 2011

The suicide of an Indonesian maid in Kuwaiti custody is drawing questions about the conditions of her imprisonment.The woman hung herself with her scarf, her severed neck indicating that she had not been checked up on for days. Current accounts of the case are conflicting; one reports that security officials attempted to save the woman, while another raises accusations of the neglect.

While details of this woman's case are still unknown, migrant suicides in custody can be better understood in the context of the general vulnerabilities they face in Gulf legal systems; the difficulty in maneuvering about a system in a foreign language, and in securing representation or other legal aid, compounds the tendency towards unfair migrant treatment to generate extraordinarily uncertain and frightening situations for detained migrants. While a complexity of factors drive an individual to commit suicide, the overwhelming powerlessness of custody can, for some, signify the tipping point.

Though the circumstances her death are largely speculative without a complete investigation, it's worth noting the innocuous nature of her arrest; she was imprisoned for absconding from her sponsors, a "crime" which in itself reflects the inequitable nature of the Kuwaiti justice system.