By Atyab Al-Shatti
Last week was rampant with discussions over the US state’s department issuance of the Trafficking in Persons report 2022. The report on Kuwait highlighted several stories of human trafficking and visa trade that went viral in the country which were also reported by national and international media channels such as the suspicious Bangladeshi MP act which involved visa trade. Another case was the lack of shelters for male victims of human trafficking which is duly a result to the non-exitance of shelters in Kuwait for all purposes, since the only operating shelter is the female domestic workers’ shelter.
Furthermore, the report addressed the overall government efforts to combat any form of human rights’ violation, which does not include operating or providing any type of shelters in general. The report also discussed the role of the judiciary system in implementing law 91 for the year 2013 regarding combating human trafficking and smuggling of migrants. The efforts which were put up in the report collectively worked to gather information from various sources, whereas the data base and statistics stated therein reflect the depth of the search undertaken to come up with this report.
Yet, while page 334 touches down upon the definition of visa trade in the light of the gaps and shortfalls of visa conditions and kafala system in Kuwait through highlighting grave incidents that took place, it was fundamental for the report to include critical implications related to unregistered newborns which was coincidentally exposed through the pandemic. This topic concerns a generation deprived from minimum human life standards, health, education and recognition before the government. This crisis was uncovered during the lockdowns of the pandemic where it was impossible for many migrants to seek ways of earning money. These individuals faced another challenge to return to their country of origin, related to identity verification documentation which was always difficult and almost impossible for laborers victimized by the visa trade; a form of human trafficking that was not highlighted in the report.
Moreover, visa 18 consists of regular job visa and small project visa. The difference relies in the fact that the small projects’ visa 18 does not permit the worker to transfer to any job unless it was in the same type of work, constraining and limiting mobility of a migrant worker in the market; a condition that must be revoked by the law and considered as a sign of human trafficking.
Confiscating passports is a violation by the national laws and was stipulated within the report, yet was never addressed as a sign of human trafficking, nor ever linked to the fact that human trafficking cannot be easily detected because victims mostly fear to speak up. Confiscating the passport is a violation for which an employer will be fined for, but is it an efficient penalty? Or can’t it relate to a bigger crime being committed in any way?
Human trafficking bodies in countries worldwide have significant mechanisms to combat this crime. In the Netherlands, I was taught that low wages are signs of human trafficking, while unreasonable discounts to grab customers and many ways would expose workers to severe exploitations and many signs that lead to crimes hidden under the silence of employees. Exchanging experiences shall assist in the formation of a stronger alliance to end human trafficking.