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30 US congressmen call for urgent action on UAE and Middle East Human Trafficking


30 US congressmen call for urgent action on UAE and Middle East Human Trafficking

30 US congressmen call for urgent action on UAE and Middle East Human Trafficking

International UN Watch

London, UK, Dec. 14, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Washington, London – On Human Rights Day, thirty members of the U.S. House of Representatives signed a “dear colleague” letter to the U.S. government calling for an end to human trafficking and labor exploitation in the Gulf region of the Middle East. Representative Raúl Grijalva, who serves as Vice Chair in the International Workers’ Rights Caucus, led the effort. “I led my colleagues in a letter urging Sec. Pompeo to urge the Gulf States to uphold human rights for migrant workers and abolish the discriminatory Kafala System,” he tweeted. The letter was supported by International United Nations Watch, Just Foreign Policy, Amnesty International, Freedom Forward, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), Freedom Initiative, the Saudi American Justice Project, Win Without War, GLJ-ILRF, and Demand Progress.

In addition to highlighting on GCC region, the letter made particular focus on both Saudi Arabia and UAE due to the high levels of human rights abuses regarding the Kafala System (Modern Slavery) and human trafficking of female victims from east Europe to UAE.

“In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the number of sex trafficking prosecutions and convictions increased, yet authorities allegedly jailed unidentified trafficking victims for offenses of prostitution, extramarital sex, or absconding from their employers. Furthermore, there were no reported convictions of labor traffickers during the period of the recent TIP report, and cases of labor violations and forced labor were not treated as trafficking offenses. While labor trafficking offenses remain a primary concern in the country, the government took no “new steps to dismantle the [Kafala] sponsorship system.” In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Human Rights Watch and other prominent organizations expressed their concern about vulnerable low-paid migrant workers in the UAE and the cramped and unhygienic conditions of detainees. The UAE upheld a policy of no minimum wage for migrant workers, who comprise 90% of its population” said the letter

The letter which was signed by 30 congress members stated, “In Saudi Arabia, the Kafala system ensures that a migrant worker cannot leave the country without permission from their sponsor, paving the way for exploitative practices. The government continues to “fine, jail, and/or deport migrant workers for prostitution or immigration violations,” pertaining to cases of unidentified victims of labor or sex trafficking. Saudi Arabia miscategorized trafficking cases as administrative violations rather than criminal offenses. The TIP report further asserts that Saudi Arabia’s Kafala system has “continued to exacerbate trafficking vulnerabilities in the large migrant worker communities.”During the COVID-19 pandemic, Saudi Arabia also increased penalties and taxations imposed on migrant workers.”

It also added, “Similar requests have been recently spearheaded in the European Parliament and the U.K. Parliament. The United States and the international community must uphold human rights across the globe and protect victims of trafficking and exploitative working conditions in the Gulf. This letter requests that the Department of State urge the GCC to make significant and lasting improvements in regards to legal protections, gender equality, labor rights for migrant workers, and to completely reform or abolish the Kafala system in the region.”

Maya Garner, spokesperson for International United Nations Watch, stated: “It is encouraging to see progressive members of Congress stand up to human trafficking and labor exploitation in the Gulf Region. This letter is important for directly addressing the Kafala sponsorship system as a root cause of this abuse, and for looking at the contributing factors of gender inequality, and labor and migrant rights violations. Widespread reform is urgently needed, as is respecting the rights of domestic workers. I hope to see more members of Congress and American civil society urge GCC member states to fully comply with international human rights standards.”

The letter was initiated by International United Nations Watch is a London-based monitoring organization which issued a report “A Journey to the Unknown: Trafficking from the Fringes of Europe” which focused specifically on case studies of the sex trafficking of Moldovan women to the UAE, petitions in the EU parliament, UK parliament, as well as the French, German, Belgium, Danish and Swedish parliaments have accumulated more than 100 signatures from parliamentarians.

According to Amnesty International,” women continued to face discrimination in law and in practice. For example, the Personal Status Law of 2005 states that “a husband’s rights over his wife” include the wife’s “courteous obedience to him” (Article 56), and places conditions on a married woman’s right to work or leave the house (Article 72). Under Article 356 of the Penal Code, “debasement of honour with consent” is punishable by one year or more in prison. On the basis of this law, a Swedish-run hospital in Ajman Emirate was forced to report pregnant, unmarried women to the police. In some cases these referrals have led to prosecution and deportation. The government failed to adequately protect women from sexual and domestic violence. Under Article 53 of the Penal Code, “a husband’s discipline of his wife” is “considered an exercise of rights”, language that can be read as official sanction of spousal abuse.”

Letter endorsed by:

Lead: Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva


Rep. Janice D. Schakowsky

Rep. Barbara Lee

Rep. James P. McGovern

Rep. Jamie Raskin

Rep. Jim Cooper

Rep. Deb Haaland

Rep. Hank Johnson

Rep. Ilhan Omar

Rep. Ro Khanna

Rep. Jared Huffman

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney

Rep. Steve Cohen

Rep. Alan S. Lowenthal

Rep. David N. Cicilline

Rep. Ayanna Pressley

Rep. Mark Pocan

Rep. Jesús G. “Chuy” García

Rep. Pramila Jayapal

Rep. Bobby L. Rush

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman

Rep. Joe Neguse

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson

Rep. Peter Welch

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici


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Maya Garner


Address: 1 Burwood Place, London, W2 2UT, United Kingdom

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