There are an estimated 6000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in Kuwait. Men and women migrate from South and Southeast Asia, Egypt, the Middle East, and increasingly throughout Africa to work in Kuwait, predominantly in the domestic service, construction, hospitality, and sanitation sectors. The vast majority of migrant workers arrive voluntarily; however, upon arrival some sponsors subject migrants to forced labour, including through non-payment of wages, protracted working hours without rest, deprivation of food, threats, physical or sexual abuse, and restrictions on movement, such as confinement to the workplace and the withholding of passports. Many of the migrant workers arriving in Kuwait have paid exorbitant fees to labour recruiters in their home countries or are coerced into paying labour broker fees in Kuwait which, according to Kuwaiti law, should be paid by the employer—a practice making workers highly vulnerable to forced labour, including debt bondage. To a lesser extent, migrant women are also subjected to forced prostitution.
Morium travelled to Kuwait in search of work to improve her situation. She arranged a visa through her neighbour’s father and migrated to work as a maid. Upon arrival, she was taken to her employer. As the only maid, Morium was forced to do everything, working long hours with no breaks, she was denied food and subjected to physical and sexual abuse. Morium was able to escape one day when the son of the family left the front door open, she was soon arrested and sent back to Bangladesh.
I decided to try migration to improve our situation. I lived next to a woman whose father works in Kuwait as a driver. I asked for her help. Her father sent me a letter. He said he could send me a house visa. I would have no problem. He knew the family and there was no man in the house. He added: "I know how much you have suffered with your husband. You are like a sister to me. I will see to it that you get peace. I am sending the visa through Badol dalal.
I went to my father with Badol after he received the visa. My father who did not want me to go at first, could no longer refuse. Badol said the visa had to be paid for whether I went or not.
In Kuwait, the driver took me to my employer. It was a woman and her child. Her husband had died a little time before. I was the only maid, so I had to do everything. After working hard, the mistress did not feed me properly. I was given the leftovers on plates. If I asked for more food, she called me miskin or she said I should not eat so much, I will get fat. If I did anything wrong, I got hit. They had no kindness whatsoever. At first, I could not understand the language but I was not excused for this. Once I ate an apple without asking. She got furious and beat me with a stick. If I did anything wrong, I got locked in the toilet. Every day, I was maltreated.
If there had been only this, I may have stayed but I was also sexually abused. There was no man living in the house but this woman had a distant cousin who stayed regularly. This cousin had an illegitimate relationship with the woman as well.
The first time he came to me, I did not understand the language but what he wanted was very clear. He used me forcibly and kept coming to me almost daily. Naked, he used me like an animal. This man used me and never offered me anything in exchange. Sometimes the woman went out but the man stayed and used me. As I spent all my time with him, I could not do the housework and when the woman came back, I got punished.
The driver who had given me the visa never contacted me and I could not send news home either. After losing my honour, I wanted to leave but then I thought about problems at home. With my husband, I had no peace. In addition, if I returned now, I would have to face my father and my brother's anger and their deception at my failure. So, I decided to stay but my situation got even worst. My hands were full of sores, I was poorly fed and my health suffered. And this man who used me every day.
I wanted to escape. But how? They always locked me in when they left. One day, the boy had opened the door and was playing on the street. I slipped out of the house. I met a Bangladeshi driver and told him my story. He said he could not help because if he took me in his car the police would also catch him. He told me to hide in a broken house. I spent the night there. In the morning, I was so hungry I went out and asked for food at a shop. They gave me bread and a banana. Then I walked on the street and the police soon arrested me. I was taken to the police station and I gave them the name of my employer. (At that stage, she gave the man's name)
They called him. Every day, he came and told me not to mention the sexual abuse. He said if I did, I would be sent back to Bangladesh, so I said nothing. I was kept in jail for 1 month. Then a court decision was taken and my employer was asked to return my papers and send me back to Bangladesh. My employer kept me for 3 days. During this time, he abused me like before. Another girl had replaced me and the worst was that he used me in front of her. These people know nothing about shame and decency.
Narrative located in the report ‘Beyond Boundaries: A Critical Look at Women Labour Migration and the Trafficking Within’ by Thérèse Blanchet provided courtesy of The Child Protection Hub