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Kuwaiti Officials Threaten Migrants for Suing Employer

On September 17, 2014

In August, published a story about five Sudanese migrants working in Kuwait as security guards for al-Raed Security Company. Each took loans in order to afford 800 KD in (illegal) recruitment fees for a job they were told entailed eight hour working days and 100 KD per month.

Shortly after their arrival in Kuwait, the workers were forced to sign new contracts stipulating 12 hour work days and monthly salaries of only 70. KD Contract substitution is a frequent strategy used by both unethical recruitment agencies and employers. Migrants often have no choice but to sign contracts with less favorable terms,  unable to return home without means to pay their recruitment debts.

All five workers signed the new contracts, yet the company still regularly refused to pay their salaries, only relenting after much delay and protest. After a year of poverty and debt, the workers decided to obtain a transfer of sponsorship with the help of the labor ministry.

But the ministry, despite claiming to have resolved the dispute, failed to guide the workers; instead, an official from the Committee of Disputes verbally and physically assaulted them.

Mr. Alhadi Adam, one of the five workers, told that Kuwaiti newspapers have misreported their story, parroting the ministry’s narrative though the case remains pending. The ministry continues to mismanage the dispute and the workers resorted to hiring a new lawyer through their embassy. After the lawyer, Ismail al-Enizi, took steps to sue the al-Raed company, the MoL immediately contacted the workers in hopes of resolving their case outside court. A ministry official, Badriyah al-Mukaimi, offered them four months of backpay and return tickets to Sudan. But the workers refused her deal, and are now demanding a year of salaries and a “grace period” to transfer their sponsorship to a new employer.

Al-Mukaimi was the same official who offered the workers an exit deal two months ago, convincing the company to sign a deal permitting the workers to transfer their sponsorship. But while finalizing their kafala transfer, the same official who assaulted the workers, Emad al-Harbi, alleged the deal signed by al-Mukaimi and both sides was “not real.

Al-Mukaimi is currently interested in resolving the case to prove that courts are not more effective at settling migrants’ issues than the ministry – in part as the ministry has been under fire recently for failing to manage labor complaints. Faisal Juma, the embassy's consulter, told the workers that al-Mukaimi does not want them to go to court, admitting to the ministry's mistake. There are several documents in the case that implicate al-Mukaimi for offering an exit deal without ensuring its execution.

The ministry’s attempt to intimidate the workers into accepting unfair deals has not relented;  at 10 p.m. on Tuesday September 9th, Nasser Hmaidy al-Mutairi, the assistant director to the Labor Relations department at the ministry, accompanied Ibrahim al-Baghli, the owner of al-Raed Company, and his assistant, to the workers apartment. The trio threatened the workers with deportation, demanding they return to their jobs.  The workers refused to capitulate their claims and promised to proceed with the court case.

This ministry’s behavior provides yet another striking example of Kuwait’s antagonism towards migrant workers in distress and the intentional obstruction of their access to justice.