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.
Afrin Akhtar travelled to Kuwait in 1996 looking for work, however upon arrival she was left at the airport for days until she was taken to work for an employer, being told money was being sent back to her family. After a month Afrin Akhtar ran away but was taken by police back to the ‘agency’ and she was again forced to work in people’s homes, receiving no money for her work.
I was left 10 days at the airport without washing, without eating or sleeping properly. No one came to pick me up. I was terrified. After 10 days, Josna came with a Bangladeshi man. They took me to an office. There were many girls there from Bangladesh and from other countries. They were all young like me and beautiful. We were well fed. Bangladeshi men came and talked to us. After 15 days, I was sent to work in a house.
There were 6 Bangladeshi men from different districts in that house. They did not tell me anything about salary. When someone came, they presented me as the wife of one of them. I could not protest. They said the law is very strict and this was the only way I could stay. They said, give us your bank account number and we will send money directly to your family.
After 1 month, they showed me a letter supposedly from my husband. It said he had received 8,000 taka but I later found out it was not true. I had to work day and night. I had bought my misery from Josna and she had sold me to them. After 1 month, I ran away and the police picked me up. I stayed 25 days in jail. Josna freed me. I don't know how she did this. I was taken back to the agency. I was there for one week and taken to another employer for 3 months. There again, I got no salary. Because of this, I quarreled with the lady and went back to the agency. For one year, I was sent to different homes and worked on a daily basis. The agency took all my money. The employer paid for me but I received nothing. The agency people kept saying they would pay me after 3 months, after 6 months. I could not send any money home. I felt really depressed.
I told Josna one day: "You are using me, making money out of me. You have done nothing for me." Josna replied: "Fine, I will send you back to Bangladesh.
I said: "No. I spent a lot of money to come here, my relationship with my husband is not good, my father has given me my share of the inheritance, I cannot go back."
Josna sent me to work in the house of a police officer. He had two wives, one Saudi and one Irani. At this point, I accepted everything the master asked for. I was so afraid of experiencing again a situation like what I had known the first 1 year.
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