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Employer misconduct in the last days of February

On March 1, 2012

The end of February marks another month scarred by scores of migrant deaths. We spotlighted the high number of suicides reported earlier in the month, and the statistics linked to migrant well-being have not improved since. The usual cases involving employer abuse have taken - or nearly taken - the lives of several migrant workers.

Employer neglect is not a form of abuse that is often reported, perhaps because it rarely deteriorates into situations severe enough to warrant media attention. But given the lack of labor codes governing migrant workers, and especially domestic workers, neglect is likely as pervasive as direct, physical abuse - and it certainly is as damaging; In Bahrain, an employer abandoned Neima Mohammad Kedir, an Ethiopian maid who had recently miscarried, at a worker’s agency instead of bringing her to a hospital. Kedir died because, having never received medical attention, the miscarried fetus remained in her womb and ultimately induced several health complications. The sponsor attempted to pass off her death as a botched abortion, but medical reports recently disproved his story. While it is noteworthy that state authorities are finally conducting what appears to be a full investigation into her death, the lack of preventative or protective legislation allows employers to commit such acts in the first place.

Other migrants managed to escape employer abuse alive, but certainly not unscathed; in Kuwait, three brothers raped their family maid. The woman, an Ethiopian, ran away and was later discovered by authorities. Another Ethiopian maid working in Kuwait was beaten by her employer for “ironing too slow.”

These are only select cases of employer misconduct reported within the final weeks of February. While the juridical punishments for the pertinent sponsors are yet unknown, the pervasiveness of abuse demonstrates a material stasis in the social and legal status of migrant workers throughout the Gulf. Despite innumerable soft ‘promises’ to improve conditions for migrant workers, migrants still die and are still abused at outlandish rates.