Human Rights advocacy
Respect rights of migrant workers
FORUM-ASIA (FA) is gravely concerned over the recent arrest and deportation of nearly 800 Bangladeshi workers by Kuwaiti government. The government has shown total disregard for fundamental economic, social and political rights of migrant workers. Its actions goes against the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Bangladeshi workers took to the streets to protest the inhuman condition they were forced to work and live in, the long overdue of payment of salaries, fake contracts, extortion by agents and exploitation by employers.
However, these workers were deported on charges of staging illegal strike. Beating and torture of some of the detained Bangladeshi workers prior to deportation has also been reported. FA regrets that despite the government's acknowledgment of problems commonly faced by migrant workers in the country, including review of several policies, Kuwait has resorted to deportation of the workers rather instead of alleviating their miseries and ensuring that the overdue payment to the workers are paid immediately. It has also maintained silence over the practice where contract terms were agreed to in Bengali in Bangladesh but upon arrival in Kuwait, workers were expected to sign papers in Arabic.
Migrant Forum for ASIA (MFA), in its statement dated 8 August 2008, said it had received reports that the workers are paid as little as 10 Kuwaiti Dinar ($37 USD) monthly when, in fact, their original contract stipulates they should be paid 50 Dinars ($187 US).
On 4 August, the Kuwaiti cabinet set a minimum monthly salary of 40 Dinars. This, however, only applies to government-contracted workers and still does not deal with the thousands of workers whose salaries remain unpaid or underpaid. FA urges the Kuwait government to apply this policy to all eligible migrant workers.
Migrant workers are not a burden to such an expanding economy as Kuwait but they do contribute to the expansion.
FA also urges the Kuwaiti government to meet its obligations in the Abu Dhabi Declaration to protect migrant workers. In January 2008, Kuwait, with other members of the Gulf Co-operation States, adopted the Abu Dhabi Declaration, which asserts that states would prevent illegal recruitment practices and exploitation by employers.
We demand for a full investigation into the allegations of underpayment and abuses which led to protests by Bangladeshi workers. The government should take action against the individuals responsible for violation of the rights of the migrant workers. The Kuwaiti government must also ensure that exiled Bangladeshis, with no proven evidence of wrongdoing, be paid back their wages.
Kuwaiti's recognition of the abuses suffered by migrant workers and the move to instate minimum legislation is positive but ratification and implementation of the 1990 UN Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families as well as the ILO Conventions on Migration for Employment and the Migrations in Abusive Conditions and the Promotion of Equality of Opportunity and Treatment of Migrant Workers (ILO Conventions 97 and 143) would enable the government to claim itself as being obliged to UN principles of human rights.
Source: Forum Asia.