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5 May 2021

Gulf: Instagram used for trafficking in women migrant workers; incl. co. comments

Balconies of condominium building inhabited by migrant workers, Deira district, Dubai

Washington Post (WP) has published an investigation revealing that Instagram has been used in the recent years for trafficking in female domestic migrant workers. Unlicensed recruitment agents have created an international black market for women recruited in Africa and Asia who are sold as domestic workers in the Gulf . These women have been reportedly forced to do jobs that lack adequate wages and decent working condition as well as any form of legal protection.

WP has identified over 200 Instagram accounts that were involved in advertising women as domestic workers in Gulf countries including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. These belonged both to agents based in the women's countries of origins and in the Middle East.

A spokeswoman for Facebook (owner of Instagram) said that the company prohibits such activities on its platforms, and that it has deleted all the reported accounts. She further said that the company has developed technologies to target this kind of content, but it is still not perfect. She added that the company takes such allegations "extremely seriously" and that it has been consulting with international experts to detect any form of human exploitation that use social media platform.

The director of Alphasher Agency in Nairobi told WP that she has recruited women as domestic workers for licensed and unlicensed agents in Gulf countries using Instagram. However, she denied the allegation that these women were subject to abuse or exploitation.

“They advertise us on social media, then the employer picks. Then we are delivered to their house. We are not told anything about the employers. You’re just told to take your stuff, and a driver takes you there,”
Vivian, 24, from Kenya.
“We’ve developed technology to detect this kind of content and behavior, but it’s not perfect. We’re constantly working to improve this technology to help us catch more of this content more quickly.”
Stephanie Otway, Spokeswoman for Facebook