January has not established an optimistic precedent for migrant workers in 2013. Saudi Arabia’s execution of Sri Lankan worker Rizana Nafeek made international headlines, but other documentation of injustice and abuse in the region have not received the same level of acknowledgement.
Exploitation in the form of nonpayment provoked an infrequently large strike in the last week of January. Over 7,000 Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian, and Filipino halted work on a state project after private subcontractors failed to pay their salaries. Saudi has attempted to redirect workers’ grievances to bureaucratic levels.
In Bahrain, employer neglect caused the death of over 13 workers in a labor camp.
Staggering reports of sexual abuse also surfaced throughout the region. In Kuwait, A Filipina maid escaped her sponsor’s home after a year of sexual assault by both her employer and his two brothers. Another maid was raped and badly beaten by her 70 year-old sponsor.
In the UAE, two maids continue to seek shelter at the Nepali embassy. The women were trafficked into the country on forged documents, and then sold to sponsors. One maid endured physical and sexual abuse, while the other was regularly tortured psychologically.
Migrante-UAE stated it was very concerned with the almost weekly frequency of Filipina rape reports the organization currently receives. The most recent cases have included the gang and employer rape.
Physical, sexual, and psychological violence can often induce domestic workers to commit suicide; in Kuwait, a Nepali housemaid hung herself in the home of a labor office employee. Another Nepali maid hung herself in her sponsor’s home. An Ethiopian maid attempting to escape recruiting agents fell during flight and died from her wounds. Another Ethiopian maid hung herself in her sponsor’s home - a jarring photo of the deceased was published here.
In Jeddah, an Ethiopian housewife hung herself in her kitchen. In Mecca, another Ethiopian housemaid hung herself in her sponsor’s home. An Indonesian maid also hung herself in her sponsor’s home in Asir (See article here).
In Lebanon, a Nepali domestic worker died after stabbing her employer, and then herself, in the stomach.
In Kuwait, at least four women were able to escape violence by other means. Nepali domestic workers were rescued and repatriated from abusive homes with the aid of the NGO Paurakhi Nepal and Kuwaiti police.
These monthly roundups reflect only a snapshot of migrant abuse in the region, as cases are underreported both administratively and by local media.