Bangladeshi workers fish in the Arabian sea, on the shores of Oman's southeastern seaboard - © 2018 Sebastian Castelier

About 25 million foreign workers live in the Gulf region, making up the majority of the population in Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, while Saudi Arabia host the 4th largest migrant populations in the world. Therefore, substantial remittances flood the economies of labour sending Asian countries, accounting for a third of the India's Kerala state's income. However, foreign workers are often bound to their employer via a sponsorship system. Overall, 600,000 migrants suffer forced labour in Arab States and many encounter difficulties, including long working hours, physical and sexual abuse, unpaid salaries, retention of passports, mental breakdown. 

Domestic workers


Following the murders of domestic workers in Kuwait, local authorities promised better legal protections. Yet, 93 per cent of employers continue to confiscate their domestic workers’ passports violating the prohibition to do so. "Kuwaitis keep passports to enslave people [...] they do not understand that domestic workers have dignity and should be treated as human, not objects," said Saleh Al Hasan, a legal researcher for the Kuwait Society For Human Rights. This report features domestic workers, a Filipino journalist, human rights activists and a Filipino diplomat to address the matter of poor law enforcement in Kuwait. Read more...


Hate speech

Once a major trade centre in the Gulf region and a vibrant art centre since the 1930s, the emirate of Kuwait has been for centuries a crossroad of civilisations where traders and workers from all over the world used to live harmoniously. In recent years, structural economic challenges have contributed to fuel rampant anti-migrant racism. Numerous Kuwaitis believe that foreigners outnumbering nationals by far poses a socio-economic threat and over-pressurised undersized public services.


Whilst a parliament member called on the government to deport half of the 3.3 million expatriates over the next five years, other voices among the civil society call for unity and respect towards expatriates, whose work benefits to Kuwait's economy. To better understand the phenomenon, I talk to Kuwaiti politicians and academics. Read more...




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 -   © 2020 Sebastian Castelier