Forced labor or what many call modern-day slavery, is when employees are forced to work somewhere without the right to leave or object. This includes domestic helpers who do not have the right to leave the house, take days off, breaks and so on. The International Labor Organization (ILO), an agency under the United Nations, is currently running a huge campaign to end modern slavery. Kuwait and approximately 185 countries are members of this organization, so you can only imagine how huge the campaign is.
I usually do not write about international organizations or international campaigns, but I feel that this topic needs to be discussed more in Kuwait. As a lawyer who has been writing for more than six years, I have received a fair share of emails from young domestic workers stuck in houses in Kuwait. As a Kuwaiti citizen, I love my country and therefore would like to see it move forward, so it is important to not ignore the ugliness that does happen in Kuwait. It is important though to point out that this does not only happen in Kuwait – in fact, according to the ILO, there were 4.1 million people in slavery as of 2016, 70 percent of whom were non-nationals.
I have written multiple times on what you can do if you are in such a situation. Also, please do not hesitate at any point to email my office if you are dealing with such an issue.
Question: I came to Kuwait thinking I would be working as a computer assistant, because that is what I am qualified for. I was shocked to learn when I arrived at the airport that I would be working as a domestic worker. I had no choice but to sign the documents provided to me at the airport. I am making a third of what I used to make back home. They have taken my phone away from me. I don’t know what to do. How can I go back to my country?
Fajer: I see this all the time. Please know you are not the only one. There are some crazy things happening out there and they need to stop. This is human trafficking and it is absolutely illegal, yet unfortunately continues.
Please follow these steps:
1) Speak to your employer and ask them for a release or a ticket to go back home – some are nice enough to do so. If you feel that your agency will just take you back and send you to another employer, then don’t do this.
2) Call your embassy – please find below numbers of some embassies:
Ethiopian Embassy in Kuwait: 2533-0128/2533-4291
Indian Embassy in Kuwait: 2253-0600
Pakistani Embassy in Kuwait: 2532 7649
Indonesian Embassy in Kuwait: 2253-1021
Philippine Embassy in Kuwait: 9955 8527
Sri Lankan Embassy in Kuwait: 2533-9142 / 43 / 48
Nepalese Embassy in Kuwait:2524 3275
3) If your embassy number is not available above, please email me at email@example.com with the following information:
* How you are being mistreated
* Your name
* Your civil ID number
* Your sponsor’s name
* Your sponsor’s civil ID number
If you are an employer and you are reading this, please go home today and just say ‘thank you’ kindly to the people who make sure you have food on your plate, keep your house clean and take care of your children. Also please make sure you are following the law with regards to your domestic workers. They have the right to the following and it is your responsibility to ensure they receive all their rights:
– An hour-long break after five hours of work.
– Not more than 12 hours of work a day.
– A full day off every week.
– The right to keep their passport.
– The right to leave the house on their day off (should never be locked in).
– The right to change jobs when their contract ends or to leave to work for another employer without paying a so-called ‘transfer fee’.
– The right to receive their salary on time.
Question: I am being abused. I work 19+ hours a day without rest. I am not allowed to have my phone (I am emailing you from the house’s iPad) and I barely get food. Help me. What can I do?
Fajer: First things first, assess your situation. If it is life-threatening, please go to the shelter. The Kuwaiti government has set up a beautiful and safe shelter for those who need it. If your case is not life-threatening yet critical, please contact your embassy. If you don’t have an embassy, you can email me and I will forward your case to the Society of Social Workers. Please include the following details when emailing me:
1) Your name
2) Your civil ID number
3) The name of your boss
And any other information you think is vital. Please contact your country’s embassy if there is one in Kuwait.
For questions or queries, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Attorney Fajer Ahmed