PODCAST: Migrant workers unprotected in Gulf region

Women News Network – WNN Interviews

Domestic worker leaves airport for unknown work in the Mideast. Image: WN

Ms. Khwala Mattar, senior specialist on employee principle and rights with the ILO – International Labor Organization, talks through the Mideast Press Club publication, “The Media Line,” interviews Esra’a Al Shafei, founder of the human rights network, “Mideast Youth,” on the issues of migrant rights, abuse and exploitation.

Over the last few years their has been a huge migration of migrant workers into the Gulf region of the Middle East. Workers, many who come from Southern Asia, arrive desperate to take any job. Unfortuately, little to no NGOs, especially inside the region, seem to be interested in covering the rights of this group.

“They would often  have to choose between imprisonment or working over 16 hours a day with barely a meal to get by. Alot of them (people) are not aware that many of these migrant workers don’t get paid,” says Esra’a in her interview.

Numerous lawyers, who do have the knowledge to help and provide legal counsel to migrants often don’t jump in to help migrant workers as they know that money to pay for legal services is most often non-existent for this group.

Unprotected and without resources, passports or legal services many women migrants are left to fend for themselves against a system of exploitation that includes sexual servitude.

Mideast Youth Podcasts – MEYcast

Producer: Khwala Mattar for The Media Line

Guest: Esra’a Al Shafei

Date: 23 January, 2008

Length: 6:56 min

Background: Most migrant labourers come to the Gulf from other countries in the Middle East, Africa, South and Southeast Asia. Men primarily from South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Afghanistan) work in the construction sector, and have supplied the manpower that has been necessary for the Gulf States to rapidly build up major real estate and infrastructure projects, such as The Palm and the Burj Dubai in the UAE. Tens of thousands of women are from countries as diverse as Sri Lanka, India, the Philippines, Ethiopia and Indonesia work as housemaids for local families. Others work in low-paid jobs in factories and as cleaners. In Saudi Arabia, migrants are regularly employed as drivers, since women are not legally allowed to drive. (This information provided by Mideast Youth)


Humanitarian cyber-activist, Esra’a Al Shafei, is the Bahraini founder and director of MideastYouth.com, an innovative digital network that aims to encourage conversation across the borders of religion, ethnicity and nation as they give freedom of speech to everyone, especially to the youth of the Middle East and the North African regions.


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