There are an estimated 6000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in Kuwait (GSI 2018). 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.
Anura left Bangladesh for work in Kuwait. Thinking she would be working for a company, on arrival she was taken to a house and then taken to a brothel where she was held for 3 days before escaping.
On 7 April 2001, two of us left together for Kuwait. We bought company visas from Josna who came to visit Bangladesh. The cost was 75,000 taka each. One Comilla driver, partner of Josna, picked us up at the airport and took us to Sabaya. There were 7 girls living there. Some had been there for 3 months, others for 6 months, all had been there for less than one year. Two girls were from Teknaf, 2 from Narayangonj, 1 was from Gazipur, 1 from Tangail and 1 from Dinajpur. We were not allowed to mix with them. They used to come back from duty tired early in the morning and leave again after lunch well dressed and well made up. The driver took them to their work place and brought them back. Two of them looked very depressed and sad, the others looked happy.
The driver had a mobile. He spoke often to Josna (who was in Bangladesh at the time). They spoke in Arabic. We could not understand their conversation.
We were at Josna for 5 days. The driver promised us a salary of 40 KD plus food and cosmetics. Then he took us to Abassya. He did not explain what kind of work we would have to do but he said we could not wait until Josna returned to start.
We were taken to a room and asked to put on a dress we could not possibly wear. We were told we would have to please two foreign men. The driver tried to frighten us. He threatened us. We refused to wear the clothes and he hit us. He took us back at Josna's house and locked us up for 24 hours without food, water and fan. Then, he asked us whether we had understood.
We agreed to work but between us we had decided to run away. He took us to a Bangladeshi woman who runs a brothel. We were there for 3 days. We did not show our disagreement, then, we ran away through the bathroom. They could not break us; we were strong because we were two together.
It took us another 15 days to return to Bangladesh. One man took us to the Bangladesh Embassy and the Embassy suggested we give ourselves up to the police. If we had agreed to do as the driver asked us, we would have earned good money but we could not do it.
Why is no one putting Josna in jail? How can she do this to people.
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