Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 December 2014, 20:05 GMT

U.S. Department of State 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report - Kuwait

Publisher United States Department of State
Author Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
Publication Date 12 June 2007
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report - Kuwait, 12 June 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/467be3bd23.html [accessed 18 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Kuwait (Tier 3)

Kuwait is a destination country for men and women who migrate willingly from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Indonesia, and the Philippines to work, some of whom are subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude by employers in Kuwait. Victims suffer conditions including physical and sexual abuse, non-payment of wages, threats, confinement to the home, and withholding of passports to restrict their freedom of movement. In addition, some female domestic workers are forced into prostitution after running away from abusive employers or after being deceived with promises of jobs in different sectors. Kuwait reportedly is also a transit country for South and East Asian workers recruited by Kuwaiti labor recruitment agencies for low-skilled work in Iraq; some of these workers are deceived as to the true location and nature of this work, while others willingly transit to Iraq through Kuwait, but subsequently endure conditions of involuntary servitude in Iraq. Although children were previously trafficked from South Asia and East Africa as child camel jockeys, no indications of this trafficking appeared this year.

The Government of Kuwait does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. The Kuwaiti government created a public awareness program to prevent trafficking of domestic workers for involuntary servitude and instituted a standardized contract detailing workers' rights. Nonetheless, Kuwait showed insufficient efforts to criminally prosecute and adequately punish abusive employers and those who traffic women for commercial sexual exploitation. The government has promised for several years to pass a new labor law that would strengthen criminal penalties for the exploitation of foreign workers, but there was no tangible progress on this legislation this year. In addition, the government failed for a third year in a row to live up to promises to provide a shelter or adequate protection services to victims of involuntary domestic servitude and other forms of trafficking. Kuwait should enact a comprehensive anti-trafficking law that criminalizes all forms of trafficking in persons, assigning penalties that will be stringent enough to act as a deterrent and to reflect the heinous nature of the crime. The government should also institute formal victim identification procedures to ensure that victims of trafficking are not punished, but rather are referred to protection services. Kuwait should intensify its efforts to raise public awareness of trafficking, and should improve enforcement of the terms of the standardized contract for foreign domestic workers.

Prosecution

The Government of Kuwait demonstrated minimal progress in punishing trafficking offenses during the reporting period. Kuwait does not prohibit all forms of trafficking in persons, though it prohibits transnational slavery through Article 185 of its criminal code, an offense punishable by five years' imprisonment and a fine. Article 201 of Kuwait's criminal code prohibits forced prostitution: penalties include imprisonment of up to five years or a fine for the forced prostitution of adults, and imprisonment of up to seven years and a fine for the forced prostitution of minors. The government does not keep statistics on trafficking in persons crimes. It confirmed initiating two prosecutions for the murder and extreme abuse of domestic workers. In addition, Kuwait reported imposing five jail sentences and 15 fines for illegal trading in residence permits, as well as 12 criminal fines for recruiting workers and then not providing them with work, both of which contribute to the vulnerability of foreign workers to trafficking. These measures, however, were insufficient in the light of credible reports from multiple sources of widespread exploitation of foreign domestic workers in Kuwait. In most cases, Kuwaiti law enforcement efforts focused on administrative measures such as shutting down companies in violation of labor laws or issuing orders to return withheld passports or to pay back-wages owed rather than criminal punishments of abusive employers.

The government also did not provide sufficient evidence of prosecuting and adequately punishing trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation despite numerous raids of brothels reported by the government. In addition, unscrupulous Kuwaiti labor agencies continued to recruit South and East Asian laborers, reportedly using deceptive and fraudulent offers and coercive techniques, to meet demand in Iraq for cheap third-country national labor. The government did not report any efforts to regulate this lucrative trade of workers through Kuwait. Kuwait should increase criminal investigations, prosecutions, and prison sentences for trafficking for domestic servitude and commercial sexual exploitation, and for deceptive recruiting practices that facilitate labor trafficking.

Protection

During the year, Kuwaiti efforts to improve its protection of victims of trafficking had little effect. The government lacks formal procedures for the systematic identification and protection of trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as foreign workers arrested without proper identity documents and women arrested for prostitution. As such, victims of trafficking are sometimes detained, prosecuted, or deported for acts committed as a result of being trafficked, such as running away from their sponsors in violation of immigration laws and prostitution. Trafficking victims who are deported are not offered legal alternatives to their removal to countries in which they may face retribution. Kuwait also continues to lack protective services for trafficking victims, including a shelter offering medical and psychological care. Furthermore, the government does not fund any NGOs providing these services to victims. The police do not encourage victims to assist in investigations of their traffickers; there are cases where police either do not take the complaints of potential victims seriously or treat them as criminals for leaving their sponsors. The government should open a shelter available to all trafficking victims, including victims of involuntary domestic servitude and forced prostitution. The government should institute a formal victim identification mechanism to systematically identify and refer victims to protection services. Kuwait should refrain from deporting victims, particularly before they are given the opportunity to file criminal charges against their traffickers and assist in investigations.

Prevention

Kuwait made modest progress in preventing trafficking in persons this year. In October, the government implemented a standardized contract for domestic workers outlining their rights, including work hours, wages, and their right to retain their passports. Kuwait says that foreign workers will not be issued a visa to enter Kuwait for domestic work until the Kuwaiti embassy in their country validates this standardized contract. Some Kuwaiti embassies have implemented this new policy effectively and some have not been able to do so. It remains unclear, however, how the terms of the contract will be enforced once workers are in Kuwait. The Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs launched a public awareness campaign to inform workers, sponsors, and recruitment agencies of their respective rights and obligations.

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