25 September 2008
Mr. Luc Demaret
Bureau for Workers' Activities
Subject: Deportation of Bangladeshi Migrant Workers from
Dear Mr. Demaret,
Voice for Justice condemns the recent arbitrary arrest and
deportation of Bangladeshi workers by the Kuwaiti government.
These actions demonstrate disregard for the fundamental rights of workers as guaranteed by UN conventions on Economic, Social and Political Rights as well as by the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Kuwait has arrested at least 800 Bangladeshi workers for their alleged participation and organization of strikes. According to Reuters India, 1,000 workers had been deported. The Kuwaiti government had signaled that more workers were in line for deportation. It has been reported that detained workers were beaten and tortured by the Kuwaiti army and police.
The Kuwaiti government has charged that the Bangladeshi workers were engaged in illegal strikes. Yet the Kuwaiti government sat silent when Kuwaiti employers and contractors continued to extort workers of their rightful wages, employing bait and switch maneuvers. Kuwaiti companies commonly hire agents to recruit overseas workers to fill the hundreds of thousands of jobs that would otherwise be left vacant. The contract terms are agreed to in the Bengali language but upon arrival, workers are expected to sign papers in Arabic that they do not understand. It has also been reported that workers were paid as little as 10 Kuwaiti Dinar ($37 US) monthly.
The complaints lodged by workers have landed on the desks of Kuwait's Bangladeshi embassy officers. Frequently, workers have been harassed, intimidated or detained after requesting payment of their outstanding wages or seeking legal support for abuses.
The Voice for Justice urges the Kuwaiti government to meet its obligations from the Abu Dhabi Declaration (Jan. 2008) to protect migrant workers. The Declaration asserts that states will prevent illegal recruitment practices and exploitation by employers. The victimization of migrant workers in Kuwait show a blatant disregard for the Declaration. Many Bangladeshi workers have been labeled criminals and indiscriminately detained and deported without salaries owed to them.
We call for a full investigation into the allegations of underpayment and abuses that led to protests by Bangladeshi workers. Individuals responsible for violence should face an open and official judicial process, in full consultation with representatives of the Bangladeshi embassy. Additionally, the Kuwaiti government must ensure that exiled Bangladeshis, with no proven evidence of wrongdoing, be paid all back wages and have their belongings returned.
Voice for Justice calls on the Kuwaiti government to clearly demonstrate their support for the security and protection of workers by ratifying 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).
The Arab countries are aware of the situation regarding the abysmal working conditions of migrant workers. We understand that these governments are willing to work with the ILO for improving the situation. At Voice for Justice, we solicit the suggestions of Arab governments as to how best we can bring the matter to ILO's attention for swift and decisive action regarding Bangladeshi migrant workers in Kuwait.
Dr. Hasanat Husain, MBE
On behalf of:
Voice for Justice.
Dr. Hasanat M. Husain
Ph.D. (Exeter University)
Post.Doc.(Sussex University), PGCE (Greenwich University)
Member of the Order of the British Empire
Member Institute of Physics (MInstP.), Chartered Physicist (CPhys.),
Associate International Centre for Theoretical Physics (AICTP, Italy),
Consultant, DfES Standard Unit, UK.