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Workers at risk due to new absconding report system: Lawyer

By Faten Omar

KUWAIT: New legal procedures regarding complaints against domestic workers absconding from sponsors’ houses are harmful to both workers and sponsors, lawyer Mohammad Al-Jasem told Kuwait Times. As sponsors are increasingly complaining about their domestic workers escaping due to the increased workload during Ramadan, Jasem called on people to know their rights, while also considering the worker’s situation.

“A person who is absent from their place of residence or work is reported as absconding. According to the article 20 visa, the person must live in the sponsor’s house, so if the domestic worker is absent, the sponsor has to report it,” said Jasem. “In the past, we had the best way of reporting such cases, where the sponsor used to go to the police station and report the worker’s absence. Currently, absconding reports are filed at service centers. But the new system does not take into account the dangers of human trafficking,” he said.

Jasem explained domestic workers have recently been victims of human trafficking. “For example, before the process was amended, it was discovered one worker had not absconded. She arrived in Kuwait after her vacation but was kidnapped on her way home by a taxi driver and taken to a brothel in Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh and imprisoned for a year and a half,” he noted. Jasem explained that in the previous report system, the criminal investigation department was instructed to investigate the reason for the worker’s absence and were obligated to start searching for her and her phone until they found her.

“The old procedure used to help police officers find the person, but now the procedure only involves placing her name as a wanted person at Kuwait’s borders. People must consider that domestic workers may be subject to human trafficking,” he reiterated, calling on the government to restore the old system because it safeguarded people’s lives and deterred crime. Regarding domestic labor recruitment offices, Jasem said their existence is a crime within the legal framework. “The presence of such offices is nothing but a crime.

Most offices take money from sponsors and workers through recruitment offices in their home countries,” he charged. He said domestic workers entering Kuwait pay a large amount of money, although it is just like a regular job in any company. “We demand an end to this behavior, which is suspected human trafficking within a legal framework. It violates rights and freedoms of workers and it is almost a fraud, as some domestic workers have agreed to certain jobs and certain salaries, but when they arrive in Kuwait, they face a different reality,” he pointed out.

Jasem recommended that Kuwait should regulate this process by classifying domestic work as a “regular job” to protect the rights of sponsors, who sometimes pay more than KD 1,200 to the recruiting office. “The process must be regulated directly between the domestic workers and the sponsors through correspondence or recruiting websites, in the same way that any company recruits its workers. The contract must guarantee full legal rights of both parties,” he stressed.

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