Friday, January 08, 2010

Slow Movement: Protection of Migrants' Rights in 2009 - Part I

International migration is rapidly increasing, but in many places, including United States, a migrant is still considered an alien or an outsider, if not an enemy. Millions of people are living in countries that are not their own. Sometimes the decision to migrate is voluntary, but in many cases, it is forced, i.e. human trafficking is also rapidly increasing. Many migrant workers are forced to leave their homes to search for better opportunities; some flee from war, some flee from social injustice, and some from poverty. Their goal is simple: survival. Too many migrants are misled about the living and working conditions and are forced to leave their homes and their rights to become a slave in foreign land.

Human Rights Watch published a report based on the research they conducted in 2009 on migrant rights. The report highlights the lack of protection of migrant workers.

"Migrants drowning at sea after being turned away from shore. Children detained with adults and at risk of physical and sexual abuse. Workers cheated out of wages and confined to their workplace. Authorities extorting bribes. Governments denying health care benefits to those who might most need it."

Millions of people are employed as domestic workers. Most of these are women.

[Part 1 of the Report] Women Migrant Domestic Workers :

Millions of people from Asia and African migrate to Middle East. "Labor recruiters in their home countries often deceive these migrants about their employment contracts or charge excessive fees." According to Human Rights Watch, in most places in the Middle East (with the exception of Jordan), standard labor protection policies (such as minimum wage, limits to hours of work, rest days, and workers' compensation) do no apply to domestic workers. Hence, many domestic workers are forced to work 15 - 18 hours a day, seven days a week.

  • Saudi Arabia :
    • "With at least 1.5 million migrant domestic workers, Saudi Arabia hosts the largest number in the Middle East".
    • Labor rights violations and abuse occurs based on spurious allegations of adultery, theft, or witchcraft.
    • Migrant workers also require an 'exit visa' from the employer before he/she can leave the country. This results in many cases of forced labor.
    • In July 2009, Saudi Arabia’s Shura Council passed a law "that requires employers to provide domestic workers at least nine hours of rest each day and suitable accommodation". However, there are still vague provisions because of which sufficient protection cannot be provided to migrant workers.
  • Kuwait :
    • "Over 600,000 migrant domestic workers currently work in Kuwait, making it the second largest host country for domestic workers in the Persian Gulf region after Saudi Arabia".
    • Under Kuwaiti law, a domestic worker is not allowed to leave without the sponsor's permission, even in case of abuse. The employer controls whether the worker can change his job and can file a case against the domestic worker if he tries to leave.
  • Lebanon :
    • "There are an estimated 200,000 domestic workers, primarily from Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Ethiopia in Lebanon".
    • "Human Rights Watch research found that at least 45 migrant domestic workers died in Lebanon in 2008, a majority of whom committed suicide or died while trying to escape in a hazardous way".
    • "In January 2009, the Ministry of Labor finally introduced a standard employment contract that clarifies certain terms and conditions of employment for domestic workers, such as the maximum number of daily working hours, the need for a 24-hour rest period each week, and paid sick leave". However, there are no clear enforcement mechanisms.
  • Jordan :
    • In September 2009, a regulation issued by Ministry of Labor included migrant workers under the protection of Jordan’s labor laws.
    • "Domestic workers now have limits to daily working hours, and a weekly day of rest". However, this regulation still allows employers to control when a worker can leave and a worker cannot leave without the employer's permission, even after working hours.

Next part: Migrant Construction Workers.

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