New report on Migrants in Yemen and October Roundup

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Nov 3 2012

[Previous Migrant Rights reports on African migrants in Yemen can be found here.]

A new report from Yemen highlights the struggles African migrants face on the Northern Yemen-Saudi Arabian border. The report was produced by the Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat, an organization which coordinates programs that assistant migrants traveling from the Horn of Africa to the Yemen region.

Many African migrants become the victims of traffickers, held hostage either on the way to Yemen or upon their arrival. Migrants whose relatives are unable to pay the $100-$300 ransom are often tortured to death. The publication relays graphic accounts of migrants who reported that,

"common forms of torture by kidnappers include gouging out eyes, pulling out teeth, hammering nails through hands and feet, severe beatings causing multiple fractures, and dripping melted plastic or stubbing out cigarettes on to skin…" [Quoted from trust.org]

Rape and child mutilation were also amongst the list of reported offenses. Despite documented evidence of these crimes, smugglers and other abusers are rarely convicted.

Migrants who do make it to Yemen's Northern border are often unable to reach their final destination - in most case, Saudi Arabia. Consequently, thousands of migrants remain stranded on Yemen's streets. The IOM has repeatedly requested additional funding to continue their repatriation efforts, but unfortunately "economic migrants fall largely outside the protection of refugee law and have little access to humanitarian aid."

Elsewhere in the Gulf, October concluded with further abuses against migrant workers. Sexual and physical assaults are not only imparted by perverse employers, but by other nationals and non-nationals as well. The absence of substantive protective and punitive legislation sustains the ubiquity of these attacks.

In Kuwait, a young man raped a Sri Lankan maid after luring her to his family home. In another case, two men abducted and raped a maid. An employee of Kuwait's General Traffic Department was recently convicted of raping and brutally stabbing a Filipina maid. Lastly, an Indonesian maid died after her Saudi sponsor's son severely beat her.

Several cases of suicide and attempted suicide have also been documented in the Gulf this October. In Kuwait, one domestic worker attempted to overdose while another attempted to jump from her sponsor's home. In Kuwait and Bahrain respectively, a Nepali maid and a Filipina maid hung themselves in their sponsor's homes. In the majority of these cases, the migrants' motives have yet to be officially ascertained. Though sponsors and authorities tend to emphasize "home issues" as the leading cause of depression and consequent suicide, such drastic measures are often preceded by years of abuse and exploitation.

It is critical to note that these instances of abuse only reflect those reported by local medias. The frequency in which officially registered cases - already underepresentative of exploitation - are published by media outlets varies by country. In the coming months, Migrant Rights will endeavor to ascertain more concrete and expansive measures of abuse and suicide throughout the Gulf region.

Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East