KUWAIT: UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro yesterday called on Kuwait to abolish the Kafala system (sponsorship system) but praised a number of measures taken by Kuwait to improve the situation of foreign workers especially domestic helpers. Giammarinaro said that some domestic workers have been forced into prostitution and that hundreds of them flee their employers every year for being forced to work for long hours, are mistreated and beaten.
“In order to be successful in the struggle against trafficking, the government of Kuwait should also consider to deal with the general context of migration and labor regulations that produce social vulnerabilities,” she told a press conference at the conclusion of a five-day visit at the invitation of the Kuwaiti government.
“This is the reason why the Kafala system should be abolished and replaced by a different regulation, allowing migrant workers to enjoy substantial freedom in the labor market,” Giammarinaro said. The UN official praised Kuwait for setting up two shelters for female domestic helpers who flee their employers and called for setting up a shelter for men. “This accomplishment is even more significant given that exploitation is of domestic workers is prevalent in the region,” she said.
“I encourage the government and institutions of Kuwait to continue in this direction and redouble efforts to better prevent trafficking and protect its victims,” the UN official said. “It is necessary to address existing gaps especially regarding real alternatives to deportation when people are not willing to return,” she said. Giammarinaro urged Kuwaiti authorities to drop the absconding charges against foreign workers and ensure paying their unpaid wages as well as the possibility of changing the employer without restriction.
She said that trafficking for sexual exploitation, particularly forced prostitution exists in Kuwait and the Gulf states and called for implementing the anti-trafficking in persons law in Kuwait to eradicate this phenomenon. The UN official called on authorities to fast-track the establishment of a government owned recruitment agency to prevent trafficking in domestic workers. Giammarinaro called for the establishment of a “victim fund” that will provide a comprehensive compensation scheme for victims of trafficking. She also urged allowing migrant workers to enjoy the freedom to set up associations to protect their rights.
By B Izzak