NGO finds female migrants to Gulf continue to face labour abuse despite recruitment reforms
Lived Experiences of Migrant Women: Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait, provides a close analysis of gender-based violence against female migrant workers. The report details the stories of 24 women and their experiences of abuse and violence at the hands of their employers, both private individuals and companies.
The report highlights that sending countries now send workers directly to cleaning companies who supply live-out labour, rather than live-in workers. This model of labour supply may allow women increased mobility and ensure a higher level of monitoring to detect abuse, yet Migrant Rights found that often these women face similar issues to domestic workers. Women may spend most of their days commuting to work and when they return are not allowed to leave their labour accommodation. Recruitment agents may also use cleaning companies to circumvent bans on recruiting domestic workers; women recruited to work in hospitals or schools sometimes ended up working in private homes.
Although recent reforms have been enacted to improve the recruitment industry, women continue to be subject to exploitation. Common abuses include non-payment of wages, overwork, physical and sexual violence, and restricted communication and mobility. Although workers do have access to forms of grievance mechanism and support from local government and community groups, the lack of law enforcement and commitment from sending countries limits the impact of mechanisms to protect women abroad.
The report issues recommendations to both sending and destination countries, focusing on the need for further legal reforms, increased awareness-raising, improved complaints mechanisms, pre-departure trainings and education, and greater regulation of recruiters.
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Author: Migrant Rights
For countries of destination
- Provide equal protections for domestic workers under the labour law, with meaningful enforcement mechanisms;
- Require employers to undergo mandatory orientations ahead of a domestic worker’s arrival;
- Develop mandatory check-in systems to follow up with workers throughout the duration of their contracts;
- Improve complaint and support systems and ensure that they are well-known to workers upon arrival;
- Increase the number, accessibility, and quality of services of domestic worker shelters;
- Support community centres for workers to socialise, upskill, and obtain access to legal resources; and
- Develop public awareness campaigns on the domestic worker rights and on the value of domestic work.
For countries of origin
- Ensure that prospective migrants have access to meaningful support systems;
- Support development of accurate, useful, and accessible pre-decision information sessions and pre-departure trainings;
- Support upon reintegration, including financial training, to help avoid cyclical forced migration;
- Maintain a ‘blacklist’ of employers and agencies with records of abuse. Do not permit employers or agencies with pending cases to recruit new workers.
Author: Migrant Rights
Recent domestic worker laws and efforts to reform the recruitment industry have taken place in both Kuwait and Qatar. Bahrain partially incorporated domestic workers into its labour law in 2012... Countries of origin have also advanced recruitment reforms and critical pre-migration interventions over the past decade.
... exploitation remains rife, and even [workers'] most basic rights are not safeguarded...
The experiences of the women we interviewed support leading critiques of the ‘safe migration’ paradigm:
- Pre-departure information reaches them too late in the process... and;
- That the approach has limited impact when the destination country’s migration regime is rigid and “places the onus of change on the migrant themselves."