Tuesday, March 10, 2015

My Nigerian Friend: Victim of Human Trafficking in Kuwait

Please help if you can

I met him at a lovely gathering in a garden.  He was a soft-spoken man who listened intently to others around him and had very little to say, even when he had to introduce himself to the group.  He later came to me and asked me for my business card as we were leaving.

New Friend later modestly approached me asking me for assistance.  I like him.  He is well-spoken, very polite, has a professional demeanor and attitude, and he seems direct and sincere. I also like that he was named after a favorite American president; one that stood for equality and human rights.

Indentured servitude is not limited, however, to one country or continent.  It is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world.  Many of us are exposed to it, but what would you do to help end it?

I use the term "human trafficking" as by definition, he is an indentured slave.

New Friend paid a lot of money to a recruiter in Nigeria to introduce him to a company that offered to pay him 280KD per month as a security guard.  Later, he was told that he was to work in "horticulture" (translation:  he would be working on planting projects around Kuwait).  What he is being paid is 80KD per month.  One could argue that he isn't working for free; however, he didn't sign on for his current situation. He signed an agreement in good faith that his employers would hold up their end of the deal.  80KD is a lot different than 280KD.

Now sure, there are laws in Kuwait and he has rights.  Like complaining to the Ministry of Labor. They'll look into the matter (they already SHOULD be looking into the matter as every salary must be electronically deposited into an employee's account and it should match the employment contract - but oops!  the contract is in Arabic, so it might have said 80KD).  Most likely, the employee will be terminated and/or sent back to his country (without back pay and might even be black listed by the employer).  He'll still owe the recruiter whatever money he has agreed to pay for bringing him here. There are no hotlines that employees can call.  Nothing is anonymous.  There are always repercussions.

He's only been here for 8 months so he can't transfer to another company until he has completed a year.  That means that the unethical company can hire slave labor for an entire year before the employees can move to another company in Kuwait.

His embassy has told him just to hold on a few more months until he can transfer somewhere else.  I HOPE that when he does transfer, Unethical Company won't make his life difficult by refusing to release him.

Right now, New Friend is looking for supplemental income; any part time work so that he can get more income.  He came to Kuwait in good faith and wants to work.

If this Unethical Company had even one US government contract, I would blow the whistle so hard that it would land up someone's ass, but alas, most of Unethical Company's contracts revolve around local government - like hey - the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Awqaf (charity/welfare), Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Education, and my personal favorite :  Supplying of Labor to the Public Authority of Anti-Corruption Commission.   

If it was 200 years ago and someone walked up to you 
and asked for your help as he/she was a slave, would you help?  
Would you do it today?  
Could you live with yourself if you didn't help?

Slavery still exists in the world an it just infuriates me.  Even more that people are turning a blind eye to it right here, right now.  I was approached by someone needing help and I can't turn away without trying to assist:  with all the morale values my family/country/upbringing has taught me, how could I NOT help?

To be quite honest, there is very little I can do but give New Friend advice (which he was very grateful for) and maybe help him with money for a plane ticket (or food if it comes down to it). Or maybe asking others for their help like through this blog post.  I wish I could do more because these situations in Kuwait tarnish the reputation of the country and are exactly what the Kuwaiti Government has vowed continually to eradicate.

If you want more information or think you can help in any way, please drop me an e-mail at amerab@gmail.com or leave a comment.

One person could change this one person's life. We rise by lifting others.

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