US Ambassador visits migrant women’s shelter

‘Around 300 women, from 23 nationalities, provided basic needs until they can go home’

Lawrence Silverman tours the shelter.

KUWAIT:  The new United States Ambassador to Kuwait praised the Kuwaiti government yesterday for its ongoing efforts to combat human trafficking and domestic labor abuse.
Lawrence Silverman made the comments during a visit to the ‘Expatriate Manpower Lodging Center’ in Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh. The female-only shelter, opened in 2014, provides basic lodging and recreational areas for its inhabitants, who must remain within the facility’s confines until they return to their home country.
It was Silverman’s first visit to the center since taking up the post four months ago, describing his impression as “very positive.” He was especially approving of the wide range of services provided by the shelter. “It is particularly important to me that in addition to the living facilities, there are the medical facilities, there are legal facilities and the government ministries are represented,” he said. “All of the government ministries that might come in contact with people for the sake of protection are here and available.”

300 women
According to its chairman, Falah Al-Mutairi, the center currently hosts around 300 women from 23 nationalities, the majority coming from the Philippines and Africa. He sees the ambassador’s visit as a “commendation” of the center’s work, and believes international help is vital.
“The work we are doing here is something that is new to the Middle East in general, so it is really beneficial for us to have close collaboration with international organizations and embassies here in Kuwait, to share their expertise and experience,” Mutairi said.
In 2016, the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report placed Kuwait on its Tier 2 Watch List, meaning the country is making “significant efforts” to meet  the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards, but that the number of victims is “very significant or significantly increasing.” It was the first time since 2006 the country had ranked above Tier 3, the report’s lowest status, and Silverman believes initiatives like the shelter account for Kuwait’s promotion.

Cause for optimism
Although the country’s domestic labor reforms are yet to be implemented, Silverman believes their very existence is cause for optimism. “Kuwait is a regional leader in passing a domestic labor law [and] the fact that there is such a law is important,” he said. “Clearly this was a recognition by the Kuwaiti government that there was a need for such a facility and that it should be done properly.”
He was, however, more equivocal on whether the center alone was enough to tackle the issues. “It is hard for me to say, I am not an expert,” he said. “But I think people are being cared for here. That is the most important thing.”

By Finn McHugh

This article was published on 31/01/2017