Official Reports

Human Rights

International Religious Freedom Reports


Trafficking in Persons Reports

2017 TIP Report for Kuwait – Tier 2

The Government of Kuwait does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated significant efforts during the reporting period by passing by-laws to implement the 2015 domestic labor law, and co-sponsoring the future establishment of a centralized recruitment company, that, once operational, will reduce recruitment costs and serve to combat illegal recruiting fees. Officials also referred 39 cases of illegal recruitment for criminal investigation under the 2015 domestic labor law, and prosecuted 15 individuals under the 2013 anti-trafficking law, which resulted in nine convictions. The government also amended the 2010 labor law that increases penalties for employers who engage in unscrupulous recruiting practices. To curb the prevalence of North Korean workers subjected to trafficking, the government halted Air Koryo flights and ceased issuing new work visas to North Koreans. However, the government did not demonstrate increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period. Many officials continued to use arbitration and administrative penalties as the main avenues of resolving grievances filed by domestic workers, instead of investigating such cases as human trafficking crimes, and protracted litigation and subsequent appeals processes led most workers to decline to file court cases. Corruption at all levels dissuaded workers from reporting trafficking cases to law enforcement. The government did not regularly use formal established procedures for identifying victims, and foreign workers who quit their jobs without permission were often subjected to criminal penalties, detention, and deportation. Therefore, Kuwait remained on Tier 2 Watch List for the second consecutive year.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR KUWAIT

Increase law enforcement efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, including Kuwaiti citizens, under the 2013 anti-trafficking law, and prosecute and convict sponsors who subject foreign domestic workers to involuntary servitude; stringently enforce the domestic labor law (law 68/15) to ensure domestic workers receive appropriate rights and protections; operationalize the centralized recruitment company; uphold laws against sponsors and employers who illegally hold migrant workers’ passports; establish standard operating procedures for investigations and prosecutions of trafficking crimes; routinely employ formal established procedures to proactively identify and refer to protection services all victims of human trafficking; continue to train law enforcement officials and social workers to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, and screen for human trafficking victims during migrant roundups; establish linkages between emerging victim care efforts and law enforcement activities; continue to train shelter staff in providing services to potential trafficking victims; ensure the availability of shelter and services to male victims, sex trafficking victims, and forced labor victims outside of the domestic worker context; finalize and implement a multi-year national anti-trafficking strategy and action plan; and expand efforts to raise awareness and prevent trafficking.

PROSECUTION

The government sustained law enforcement efforts and took steps to strengthen its legal infrastructure. Anti-trafficking legislation enacted in 2013 prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes penalties ranging from 15 years to life imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The domestic labor law (law68 /15) guarantees domestic workers one day off per week, a maximum 12-hour workday, minimum wage paid per month, paid annual leave, and access to file formal grievances at the Ministry of Interior (MOI), among other protections. In 2016, MOI issued by-laws to commence implementation of the domestic labor law. In June 2016, parliament passed numerous amendments to the 2010 labor law, to increase penalties for non-payment of wages, make mandatory documentation of all paid wages, and require prison time and fines for employers and government officials who fail to adhere to provisions of this law.

In 2016, the government investigated six potential trafficking cases and prosecuted 15 suspects, compared to six cases investigated and 20 suspects prosecuted during the previous reporting period. Seven prosecutions from 2015 remained pending at the close of the reporting year. The government achieved nine convictions— including one Kuwaiti citizen—under the anti-trafficking law, on par with eight convictions the previous year; five accused traffickers were acquitted. All cases put forth for criminal prosecution under the anti-trafficking law involved sex trafficking. The MOI’s anti-trafficking and public morals department continued to investigate suspected trafficking cases and referred an unknown number to the public prosecutor’s office in 2016; it referred one forced labor case for prosecution during the previous reporting year. Domestic worker labor authorities from the MOI began investigating domestic worker labor recruitment agencies and residences to ensure compliance with the 2015 domestic labor law. During the reporting period, officials conducted 1,806 such inspections, referred 39 recruiters for criminal investigation under the domestic labor law for illegal practices, and permanently shut down 90 recruitment agencies for domestic labor law contraventions. The MOI’s Domestic Labor Department (DLD) investigates employers and recruiting agencies, in addition to grievances filed by employees, NGOs, embassies of labor sending countries, and private citizens, and subsequently arbitrates such grievances. If a settlement cannot be agreed upon, DLD officials refer the case to the courts, and if the complaint involves a gross violation, such as assault or domestic abuse, authorities transfer the case directly to the public prosecutor’s office. Many Kuwaiti law enforcement officials did not categorize or investigate the exploitation or forced labor of domestic workers as human trafficking and continued to treat such cases as administrative infractions, using official arbitration resulting in monetary compensation and repayment of back-wages to victims, application of administrative fines, and closure of recruitment firms to resolve such cases; such approaches do not provide adequate deterrence to the commission of forced labor crimes. In some cases, characterized by local media as showing indicators of trafficking, the government sought prosecution for abuse or simple assault rather than under anti-trafficking laws. Although the withholding of workers’ passports is prohibited under Kuwaiti law, this practice remained common among sponsors and employers of foreign workers; the government demonstrated no efforts to enforce this prohibition. Reports claimed some government officials sold work permits to illegal recruiters or even directly to migrant workers, potentially facilitating trafficking; however, the government did not report efforts to prosecute and convict officials complicit in trafficking or trafficking-related offenses. The OI’s anti-trafficking unit conducted five anti-trafficking training programs during the reporting year, which covered signs of trafficking and a victim centered approach to law enforcement efforts, and targeted approximately 35 trainees from all MOI departments. In addition, in conjunction with an international organization, it facilitated two training programs for MOI front-line personnel. The DLD developed and launched 12 training programs for MOI investigators and labor inspectors.

PROTECTION

The government maintained efforts to protect trafficking victims. It provided shelter over the course of the reporting period to a total of 5,000 domestic workers, including some potential forced labor victims, in its 500-bed shelter dedicated to runaway domestic workers. The shelter served as a one-stop facility, providing medical and psychological care, repatriation assistance, and access to officials from various ministries to facilitate legal assistance, including filing cases against employers. The government allocated an annual budget of 1.9 million Kuwaiti dinar ($6.23 million) for shelter operations, an increase from 260,000 Kuwaiti dinar ($852,460) the prior year. During the reporting period, the government identified 76 female trafficking victims. While victims were permitted to leave the facility unescorted, there continued to be no shelter or other protective services for male trafficking victims. The shelter received referrals from embassies, NGOs, international organizations, churches, private citizens, and migrant workers. An international organization provided assistance to 120 domestic workers, primarily from African countries without diplomatic representation in Kuwait, who needed to procure travel documentation. Embassies of the Philippines, India, and Sri Lanka maintained their own domestic worker shelters and sought compensation and legal redress for their nationals subjected to exploitative working conditions in Kuwait. During the reporting year, IOM helped the government develop and implement a screening process to identify potential trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as foreign migrant workers, domestic workers, and women in prostitution. During the government’s migrant round-ups, the extent to which the government employed this proactive screening mechanism was unknown. The MOI provided repatriation and transition assistance to approximately 200 foreign domestic workers during the reporting period; however, it was unclear whether authorities sought a refund of travel costs from the employers who sponsored the workers. To assist embassies in repatriating trafficking victims, the government, in partnership with IOM and in coordination with recruitment agencies, funded airline tickets and repatriation services for 20 victims of trafficking. The government did not offer foreign trafficking victims legal alternatives to removal to countries where they may face hardship or retribution.

Systemic challenges, including threat of criminalization and limited access to legal support, remained an impediment to the government’s protection efforts. The 2013 anti-trafficking law does not stipulate that victims who flee abusive employers should be immune from prosecution. Therefore, workers who fled their employers without permission risked criminal penalties and arrest, detention at police stations, and deportation, even if they were fleeing an abusive sponsor; following round-ups, the government reported deporting 1,118 domestic workers who allegedly violated residency and local laws. The risk of penalization, coupled with protracted litigation processes and expensive legal fees, discouraged workers from appealing to police or other authorities for protection and adequate legal redress for their exploitation. As such, trafficking victims rarely filed cases against their employers. In addition, it was not uncommon for sponsors to file counter-grievances against trafficking victims who reported their own, which often resulted in administrative deportation or detention of the employees. In February 2016, the DLD announced that employers would only be allowed to file desertion charges against workers at the DLD, as opposed to any MOI facility, which is intended to deter employers from filing such initial charges; however, it was unclear how readily the nascent policy was employed during the reporting period. The government reported public prosecutors sometimes tried cases on victims’ behalf using their oral and written statements; however, it lacked privacy laws to protect victims against potential retribution, and often was unable to provide adequate care for victims throughout the duration of legal proceedings.

PREVENTION

The government continued efforts to prevent human trafficking. The government began drafting a national action plan to address trafficking. Several ministries, in collaboration with IOM, printed and disseminated anti-trafficking pamphlets and actively participated in public awareness campaigns that warned against using illegal domestic worker recruitment companies. In June 2016, IOM partnered with the MOI to conduct a five-day anti-trafficking awareness campaign, with an emphasis on domestic workers, at three of Kuwait’s major retail shopping malls. Various officials also took part in awareness messages on local television outlets and continued to disseminate pamphlets to educate migrant workers on their rights, which were published in multiple languages, in airports, embassies, and labor-recruitment agencies.

As directed by the new domestic worker law, the government sponsored development of a centralized recruitment company that, once operational, will reduce recruitment costs and serve to combat illegal recruiting fees. During the reporting period, the government received approximately 24,200 official grievances from foreign workers, the most common included pay discrepancies, requests for sponsor and employment transfers, and overtime pay disputes; of these, 3,800 of the employment transfer grievances were resolved via arbitration, roughly 2,000 in favor of the employee, and more than 10,800 were sent to the labor courts. The government did not report outcomes of the cases referred for criminal investigation or which, if any, would be considered for prosecution under the anti-trafficking law. In January 2017, authorities investigated a Kuwaiti company on suspicion of labor law violations against its foreign workers; at the close of the reporting year, the government was still negotiating with the company and employees to determine punitive charges or fines to levy on the former and adequate compensation for the latter. To curb exploitation of North Korean laborers, the government halted all Air Koryo flights in August 2016. In September 2016, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ceased issuance of work visas for North Koreans. To reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, the government prosecuted and deported individuals guilty of exploiting potential sex trafficking victims in prostitution. The government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, Kuwait is a destination country for men and women subjected to forced labor and, to a lesser degree, forced prostitution. Men and women migrate from South and Southeast Asia, Egypt, the Middle East, and increasingly throughout Africa to work in Kuwait, predominantly in the domestic service, construction, hospitality, and sanitation sectors. Several labor-sending countries, including India, Nepal, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, and Bangladesh, restrict their female nationals from domestic employment in Kuwait. Kuwait also banned the issuance of domestic worker visas from Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Togo, Ethiopia, Malawi, Tanzania, The Gambia, Ghana, and Zimbabwe, which resulted in additional recruitment of domestic employees from other African labor-sending countries, including Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Niger, Djibouti, and Liberia, among others. The vast majority of migrant workers arrive voluntarily; however, upon arrival some sponsors subject migrants to forced labor, including through non-payment of wages, protracted working hours without rest, deprivation of food, threats, physical or sexual abuse, and restrictions on movement, such as confinement to the workplace and the withholding of passports. Many of the migrant workers arriving in Kuwait have paid exorbitant fees to labor recruiters in their home countries or are coerced into paying labor broker fees in Kuwait which, according to Kuwaiti law, should be paid by the employer—a practice making workers highly vulnerable to forced labor, including debt bondage. Some labor recruiting companies have facilitated trafficking through the use of deceptive techniques to bring in migrant workers on the basis of unenforceable contracts and nonexistent positions. Reports allege officials take bribes or overtly sell work permits to illegal labor recruiting companies or directly to migrant workers. Since 2008, reports indicate the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) has sent over 4,000 North Korean laborers to Kuwait for forced labor on construction projects, sourced by a North Korean company operated by the Workers’ Party of Korea and the North Korean military. According to these reports, employees work 14 to 16 hours a day while the company retains 80 to 90 percent of the workers’ wages, and monitors and confines the workers, who live in impoverished conditions and are in very poor health due to lack of adequate nutrition and health care.

Kuwait’s sponsorship law—which ties a migrant worker’s legal residence and valid immigration status to an employer—restricts workers’ movements and penalizes them for leaving abusive workplaces; as a result, domestic workers are particularly vulnerable to forced labor inside private homes. Many workers report experiencing work conditions substantially different from those described in the contract; some workers never see the contract at all and others receive Arabic or English-language contracts they are unable to read. In addition, sources report runaway domestic workers are sometimes exploited in forced prostitution by agents or criminals, who manipulate their illegal status. Albeit illegal, passport confiscation by employers continues to be a common practice in Kuwait.

2016 TIP Report for Kuwait – Tier 2

Kuwait is a destination country for men and women subjected to forced labor and, to a lesser degree, forced prostitution. Men and women migrate from South and Southeast Asia, Egypt, the Middle East, and increasingly throughout Africa to work in Kuwait, mainly in the domestic service, construction, hospitality, and sanitation sectors. Reports indicate the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has sent over 4,000 North Korean laborers to Kuwait for forced labor on construction projects through a North Korean company operated by the Workers’ Party of Korea and the North Korean military. According to these reports, employees work 14 to 16 hours a day while the company retains 80 to 90 percent of the workers’ wages, and monitors and confines the workers, who are in very poor health due to lack of adequate nutrition and health care. While Filipino, Indian, and Sri Lankan women continue to represent a significant percentage of Kuwait’s domestic worker population, in the last few years there has been a continued increase in migrants from Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Tanzania, The Gambia, Liberia, and Madagascar. Limitations imposed by Asian source-country governments on the recruitment of domestic workers led Kuwaiti labor agencies to recruit more migrant workers from Africa. Though most migrants enter Kuwait voluntarily, upon arrival some sponsors subject migrants to forced labor, including through non-payment of wages, long working hours without rest, deprivation of food, threats, physical or sexual abuse, and restrictions on movement, such as confinement to the workplace and the withholding of passports. Many of the migrant workers arriving in Kuwait have paid exorbitant fees to labor recruiters in their home countries or are coerced into paying labor broker fees in Kuwait which, according to Kuwaiti law, should be paid by the employer—a practice making workers highly vulnerable to forced labor, including debt bondage. Some labor recruiting companies have been complicit in trafficking with their use of deceptive recruiting techniques to bring in migrant workers on the basis of unenforceable contracts and nonexistent positions, while promising employers workers who are well-trained but turn out to be unskilled.

Kuwait’s sponsorship law—which ties a migrant worker’s legal residence and valid immigration status to an employer—restricts workers’ movements and penalizes them for leaving abusive workplaces; as a result, domestic workers are particularly vulnerable to forced labor inside private homes. Many workers report experiencing work conditions substantially different from those described in the contract; some workers never see the contract at all and others receive Arabic or English-language contracts they are unable to read. In addition, sources report runaway domestic workers are sometimes exploited in forced prostitution by agents or criminals, who manipulate their illegal status.

The Government of Kuwait does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government investigated six cases and prosecuted 20 traffickers during the reporting period in comparison to none the previous year. For the first time, it convicted eight traffickers under the 2013 anti-trafficking law. In 2015, the government established the anti-human trafficking department under the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) as the national coordinating body on human trafficking issues. The anti-human trafficking department functions as a law enforcement agency and conducted several raids per week during the reporting period. Additionally, it maintained a hotline for trafficking-related concerns in Arabic and English during the reporting period. In June 2015, the National Assembly passed law no.69, which improved protections for domestic workers. The government also created a centralized, government-sponsored domestic labor recruiting company to act as a single center for recruiting and managing the domestic labor force, as well as overseeing the implementation of the new domestic labor law and all recruiting companies that hire domestic workers. Nonetheless, it was not implemented, as the by-laws were not approved and the law had not been published in the official gazette by the end of the reporting period. The government continued its efforts to prevent trafficking during the reporting period by conducting investigations into illegal recruitment agencies, including those allegedly involving government officials, leading to the arrest and referral of 336 violators for prosecution out of 1,386 investigations. Nonetheless, it remained unclear how many of these cases were investigated under the 2013 anti-trafficking legislation. Existing laws do not provide adequate prosecutorial power or punishments for those operating labor recruiting firms. The government implemented formal procedures to identify or refer trafficking victims; however, it did not apply them in many cases and victims of trafficking continued to be arrested, detained, and deported. Emerging efforts to issue exit and travel documents to abused workers whose passports had been confiscated continued, but were not accompanied by any enforcement activities against the employers from whom the workers had fled.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR KUWAIT:

Significantly increase law enforcement efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict trafficking offenses, including those perpetrated by Kuwaiti citizens, under the 2013 anti-trafficking law; fully implement domestic labor law no.69 to ensure domestic workers receive appropriate rights and protections; prosecute and convict sponsors who subject domestic workers to involuntary servitude; enforce laws against sponsors and employers who illegally hold migrant workers’ passports; establish standard operating procedures for investigations and prosecutions of trafficking crimes; coordinate with the public prosecutor’s office to amend current laws to allow for the prosecution of labor recruiting firms; establish formal procedures to proactively identify and refer to protection services all victims of human trafficking; train law enforcement officials and social workers to identify trafficking victims proactively among vulnerable populations, and screen for human trafficking victims during migrant round-ups; establish linkages between emerging victim care efforts and law enforcement activities; continue to train shelter staff in providing services to potential trafficking victims; ensure the availability of shelter and services to male victims, sex trafficking victims, and forced labor victims outside of the domestic worker context; increase effective coordination between ministries through the inter-ministerial anti-trafficking committee; develop and implement an updated multi-year national anti-trafficking strategy and action plan; and increase efforts to raise awareness and prevent trafficking.

PROSECUTION

The government improved its legal structure and increased its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. Anti-trafficking legislation enacted in 2013 prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes penalties ranging from 15 years’ to life imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government enacted a labor law for the protection of domestic workers’ rights; however, the law was not fully implemented by the end of reporting period. Law no.69 guarantees domestic workers one day off per week, 30 days of annual paid leave, a 12-hour work day and a one-time end-of-service award of one month’s salary per year worked.

In 2015, the government investigated six cases involving 20 traffickers. It prosecuted all 20 traffickers during the reporting period, in comparison with none the previous year. The government convicted eight traffickers under the 2013 anti-trafficking law, in comparison with none the previous reporting period; five traffickers were acquitted and seven prosecutions remained pending at the end of the reporting period. In June 2015, the government established the anti-human trafficking department under MOI, which began investigating and referring trafficking cases. It also released a human trafficking handbook for its employees as a manual providing guidance on implementation of the anti-trafficking law. In November 2015, for the first time, MOI’s anti-trafficking and public morals department investigated and referred a suspected forced labor case to the public prosecutor’s office. The case involved a Syrian national who detained, coerced, and sexually abused six Filipino domestic workers. The government investigated visa fraud rings, allegedly involving complicit officials, including in MOI, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor (MOSAL), and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, as well as members of the ruling Al-Sabah family; however, it did not provide any information on its efforts to prosecute and convict officials complicit in trafficking or trafficking-related offenses. The government remained reluctant to prosecute Kuwaiti citizens for trafficking offenses. Kuwaiti law enforcement treated cases of forced domestic labor as administrative infractions, and punishment was limited to assessing fines, shutting down employment firms, issuing orders for employers to return withheld passports, or requiring employers to pay back-wages. Although the withholding of workers’ passports is prohibited under Kuwaiti law, this practice remained common among sponsors and employers of foreign workers; the government demonstrated no efforts to enforce this prohibition. It remained common to find domestic workers who took refuge in their home-country embassy shelters without their passports in their possession. In 2015, the anti-human trafficking unit, in partnership with an international organization, held an anti-trafficking train-the-trainer program. The judicial institute continued its mandatory human trafficking course for all newly hired judicial officials, including prosecutors and judges.

PROTECTION

The government made notable efforts to protect victims of trafficking, though serious systemic issues continued to harm victims. It provided shelter to approximately 4,000 domestic workers, including a small percentage of potential forced labor victims, in its high-capacity shelter for runaway domestic workers, which opened in December 2014. The fully operational 700-bed facility served as a one-stop facility, providing medical and psychological care, assistance with repatriation, as well as access to officials from various ministries involved in filing cases against employers. The government allocated an annual budget of KD 260,000 ($840,000) for shelter functions and resources. Victims were not permitted to leave the facility unescorted. While article 12 of the anti-trafficking law stipulates public prosecutors may refer a trafficking victim to an appropriate care facility during an ongoing trial until the time of repatriation, it was unclear whether government officials identified and referred any potential victims to the high-capacity shelter or other care providers. The government shelter received referrals from embassies, NGOs, international organizations, churches, private citizens, and migrant workers. The government did not conduct screenings to identify whether domestic and private sector workers were victims of trafficking. The anti-human trafficking unit published a manual to assist law enforcement officials in identifying sex trafficking, forced begging, and child trafficking crimes. Nonetheless, the government did not develop and implement formal procedures for all relevant officials to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as foreign migrants, domestic workers, and women in prostitution. During the government’s migrant round-ups, the government did not have a systematic process in place to identify victims of trafficking among the thousands of foreign migrants who were arrested, detained, and deported.

There continued to be no shelter or other protective services for male trafficking victims. Domestic workers from the Philippines, Indonesia, Nepal, Sierra Leone, India, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, and other countries continued to seek assistance at their embassies; some source-country embassies reported jointly providing shelter to more than 25 domestic workers who ran away from their employers. To assist embassies in repatriating trafficking victims, the government directly funded and coordinated with recruitment agencies to purchase airline tickets. MOI provided repatriation assistance to approximately 900 domestic workers; however, it was unclear whether authorities sought a refund of travel costs from the employers who sponsored the workers. The government did not offer foreign trafficking victims legal alternatives to removal to countries in which they may face hardship or retribution.

The 2013 anti-trafficking legislation does not stipulate providing protection from prosecution for victims who fled abusive employers. Workers who left their employer’s residence without permission risked criminal penalties and arrest, detention, and deportation, even if they were fleeing from an abusive sponsor. The threat of these consequences discouraged workers from appealing to police or other government authorities for protection and from obtaining adequate legal redress for their exploitation. Embassy contacts reported that some personally motivated police officials helped to ensure trafficking victims were not subjected to unwarranted incarceration. Trafficking victims rarely filed cases against their employers, as there were few incentives to report complaints and cooperate in investigations; however, some victims who alleged non-payment of wages received a monetary settlement for wages owed from their employers. If trafficking victims absconded and filed a grievance, it was common for their sponsors to file a counter-grievance against them, which often resulted in administrative deportation or detention of the employee. The government reported public prosecutors sometimes tried cases on victims’ behalf if they were unable to afford legal counsel while pursuing cases against their employer or sponsor.

PREVENTION

The government made increased efforts to prevent human trafficking. The government conducted awareness campaigns at Kuwait International Airport aimed at educating newly arriving domestic workers about the services offered at the domestic workers’ shelter. In March 2015, MOI’s public morals protection and anti-human trafficking department distributed brochures in English and Arabic informing workers of their rights and how to identify human trafficking to migrant workers at the airport, recruiting agencies, labor agencies, offices of the Public Authority for Manpower (PAM), and MOSAL. During the reporting period, media reports indicated that PAM referred over 3,900 files of companies that allegedly violated private sector employment law to the general administration of residence affairs for investigation. Allegations against these companies included: recruiting workers from abroad without giving them a job (831 cases); operating as a recruiting agency illegally (745 cases); violating the labor inspection law (1,191 cases); violating occupational safety and security conditions (1,133 cases); and violating or not ensuring appropriate worker accommodation conditions (36 cases). Most of the referred offenders would only be investigated and prosecuted under the general penal code and given inadequate sentences in the form of fines; of the thousands of people referred for investigation, it remained unclear how many would be considered for investigation and prosecution for violations under the anti-trafficking law. PAM continued to lack an adequate number of labor inspectors. The government reported efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor but did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. The government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.

2014 TIP Report for Kuwait – Tier 3

Kuwait is a destination country for men and women who are subjected to forced labor and, to a lesser degree, forced prostitution. Men and women migrate from India, Egypt, Bangladesh, Syria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Nepal, Iran, Jordan, Ethiopia, Ghana, Iraq, Lebanon, and Kenya to work in Kuwait, mainly in the domestic service, construction, and sanitation sectors. In the last year, there was a reported increase in migrants from Ethiopia, Uganda, and Madagascar, while Filipino and Sri Lankan women represent a significant percentage of Kuwait’s domestic worker population. Though most migrants enter Kuwait voluntarily, upon arrival some sponsors and labor recruitment firms subject some migrants to forced labor, including through nonpayment of wages, long working hours without rest, deprivation of food, threats, physical or sexual abuse, and restrictions on movement, such as confinement to the workplace and the withholding of passports. Many of the migrant workers arriving in Kuwait have paid exorbitant fees to recruiters in their home countries or are coerced into paying labor broker fees in Kuwait that, by Kuwaiti law, should be paid by the employer—a practice that makes workers highly vulnerable to forced labor, including debt bondage, once in Kuwait. Kuwait’s sponsorship law, which ties a migrant worker’s legal residence and valid immigration status to an employer, restricts workers’ movements and penalizes them for “running away” from abusive workplaces; as a result, domestic workers are particularly vulnerable to forced labor inside private homes. While Kuwait requires employers to use a standard contract for domestic workers delineating some basic rights, Kuwait lacks a domestic labor law to govern the relationship between domestic workers and sponsors; thus, many workers report work conditions that are substantially different from those described in the contract. Some workers never see the contract at all. In addition, sources report that runaway domestic workers fall prey to forced prostitution by agents or criminals who exploit their illegal status.

The Government of Kuwait does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making sufficient efforts to do so. The government did not demonstrate efforts to prosecute nor convict trafficking offenders using the 2013 anti-trafficking law or other laws that address trafficking crimes. Nascent efforts to help abused workers, such as by issuing exit and travel documents to those whose passports had been confiscated by their employers, were not accompanied by any enforcement activities against the employers from whom the workers had fled. The government’s victim protection measures remained weak. The government did not proactively identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable populations, nor did it refer suspected victims to protection services; victims of trafficking continued to be arrested, detained, and deported. Though the government partially opened its high-capacity shelter for victims of trafficking, the shelter’s referral procedures prevented some women from receiving assistance. The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking during the reporting period by investigating numerous recruitment firms and companies for fraudulent labor practices, as well as multiple government officials complicit in visa fraud; however, there was no lead national anti-trafficking coordinating body and the government did not systematically monitor its anti-trafficking efforts.

Recommendations for Kuwait:

Enforce laws against sponsors and employers who illegally hold migrant workers’ passports; implement the 2013 anti-trafficking law by investigating and prosecuting trafficking offenses, and convicting and punishing offenders, particularly sponsors who subject domestic workers to involuntary servitude; greatly increase law enforcement efforts, including investigations of trafficking offenses perpetrated by Kuwaiti citizens, and establish standard operating procedures for investigations and prosecutions of trafficking crimes; establish procedures to proactively identify and refer to protection services all victims of human trafficking, especially among the female domestic worker population; establish linkages between nascent victim care efforts and law enforcement activities; fully open and make operational the large-capacity shelter for all trafficking victims, to include providing health, psychosocial, and legal services, allow victims to leave the shelter at will, train shelter staff, and allow all suspected trafficking victims access to the shelter regardless of a referral from a foreign embassy; ensure the availability of shelter and services to male victims, victims of sex trafficking, and victims of labor trafficking outside of the domestic worker context; amend the sponsorship law to protect foreign workers, including domestic workers, from abuse; provide more anti-trafficking training to law enforcement and judicial officials; establish an inter-ministerial anti-trafficking committee; and continue to increase efforts to prevent trafficking.

Prosecution

The government made limited anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The government enacted anti-trafficking legislation in March 2013, which prohibits all forms of trafficking. The law prescribes penalties ranging from 15 years’ to life imprisonment; these penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. During the reporting period, the government did not report any prosecutions, convictions, or sentences of trafficking offenders for either forced labor or sex trafficking. Although the withholding of workers’ passports is prohibited under Kuwaiti law, this practice remains common among sponsors and employers of foreign workers, and the government demonstrated no efforts to enforce this prohibition. Almost none of the domestic workers who took refuge in their home-country embassy shelters had their passports in their possession. The government remained reluctant to prosecute Kuwaiti citizens for trafficking offenses. Kuwaiti law enforcement generally treated cases of forced labor as administrative labor infractions, for which punishment was limited to assessing fines, shutting down employment firms, issuing orders for employers to return withheld passports, or requiring employers to pay back-wages. In 2013, the Judicial Institute instituted a mandatory course on human trafficking for judicial officials. Additionally, the Ministry of Interior (MOI) began a training-of-trainers program to raise awareness of trafficking within the police ranks in this reporting period.

Protection

The government made some progress to protect victims of trafficking by partially opening its large-capacity shelter for runaway domestic workers. However, the government failed to develop and implement formal procedures for the proactive identification of trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as foreign migrants, domestic workers, and women in prostitution, and the government did not develop or implement a referral mechanism to provide adequate protection services to victims. While Article 12 of the anti-trafficking law stipulates that the public prosecutors may refer a trafficking victim to an appropriate care facility during an ongoing trial until the time of repatriation, there was no indication that this occurred in practice during the reporting period. The 2013 anti-trafficking legislation did not stipulate providing protection from prosecution for victims who fled abusive employers, but none were reportedly prosecuted in practice. Furthermore, Kuwait’s migrant sponsorship law effectively dissuades foreign workers from reporting abuses committed by their employers to government authorities. Workers who left their employer’s residences without permission risked criminal penalties and arrest, detention, and deportation, even if they were fleeing from an abusive sponsor. The threat of these consequences discouraged workers from appealing to police or other government authorities for protection and from obtaining adequate legal redress for their exploitation. Trafficking victims rarely filed cases against their employers, yet some victims who alleged nonpayment of wages reportedly received monetary compensation for wages owed from their employers. Moreover, the government did not systematically provide victims with access to legal aid or representation. Some foreign embassies reported that some personally motivated police officials helped to ensure that victims of trafficking were not subjected to unwarranted incarceration. Beginning in mid-April 2013, large-scale immigration sweeps resulted in the arrest and deportation of tens of thousands of the estimated 90,000 foreign workers illegally residing in Kuwait. There was no indication that the government took measures to identify trafficking victims among this population or provide protective services to migrants who may have experienced human trafficking.

In April 2013, the government partially opened its high-capacity shelter for runaway domestic workers and accepted a limited number of women, some of whom were trafficking victims though it was unclear whether sex trafficking victims could also access this shelter. The lack of adequate staffing prevented the shelter from being fully operational and providing in-house services. While the facility can hold up to 700 people, there were only 140 women residing in the shelter at the end of the reporting period. Victims were not able to leave the facility unescorted. The shelter assisted women to file grievances against employers and resolve labor disputes. Since the shelter opened, it assisted and provided shelter to 1,970 women, the majority of whom were repatriated, while others resolved labor disputes with current employers or found new employment. Victims must be referred to the shelter by a foreign embassy or international organization before being accepted, which prevented some women from countries with no diplomatic representation in Kuwait from receiving services. There continued to be no shelter or other protective services afforded for male victims of trafficking. Many domestic workers continued to seek assistance at their embassies; some source-country embassies reported providing shelter to at least 200 domestic workers who ran away from their employers. In 2013, the MOI issued approximately 1,000 emergency travel documents for the repatriation of laborers whose passports were confiscated by their employers; similarly, the MOI provided some source country embassies with funds to pay for the repatriation of trafficking victims. The government did not provide funding to domestic NGOs or international organizations that provide direct services to trafficking victims. The government did not encourage victims of trafficking to assist in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases, and it did not offer foreign trafficking victims legal alternatives to their removal to countries in which they may face hardship or retribution.

Prevention

The government made some progress in preventing trafficking in persons. The government did not have a national coordinating body responsible solely for anti-trafficking efforts and the government did not conduct anti-trafficking public awareness campaigns. The National Assembly, however, prepared a report on visa trading and human trafficking, which was highly critical of the government, parliament, and employers for contributing to the country’s trafficking problems; the report concluded with various recommendations for the Kuwaiti government, including elimination of the sponsorship system, enforcement of anti-trafficking laws, stiffening penalties for companies and employers that hire an excessive amount of foreign laborers, and implementing awareness campaigns for foreign workers on their legal rights. The Ministry of Information sponsored an event on the role of media in combatting human trafficking during which more than 50 participants discussed ways to portray trafficking in the media. The draft legislation to create a General Authority for Manpower, as required by the 2010 Private Sector Labor Law, was not enacted at the end of the reporting period. The government took actions to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts and forced labor. In 2013, the government initiated investigations of companies that allegedly brought large numbers of unskilled foreign workers into Kuwait under false promises of work and illegally selling work visas. As a result of these investigations, the government reportedly closed numerous labor recruitment firms, charged 700 companies with labor violations, and blocked approximately 1,000 employers from issuing new work visas. In December 2013, the media reported that the government was conducting ongoing visa fraud investigations of officials from the Ministry of Commerce, MOI, and including members of the ruling Al-Sabah family. These investigations were ongoing at the end of the reporting period, and an MOI official was reportedly referred for prosecution for illegally selling visas. The government did not report efforts to reduce the demand for international and domestic child sex tourism.


Country Reports on Terrorism

KUWAIT

Overview:
 Kuwait is an important non-NATO ally located in the critical Gulf region and a valued partner in promoting policies that strengthen regional security and stability. While Kuwait passed comprehensive anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) legislation in 2013, there were also increased reports of Kuwait-based private individuals funneling charitable donations and other funds to violent extremist groups outside the country, particularly to Syria.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:
 Prior to the May 26, 2013, passage of Kuwait Law 106/2013, the Government of Kuwait lacked a clear legal framework for prosecuting terrorism-related crimes, often having to resort to other legal statutes to try suspected terrorists, which hampered enforcement efforts. The 2013 law includes a definition of terrorism, which may provide better legal grounds for prosecuting all terrorism-related crimes.

Some specialized law enforcement units have the capacity for investigations and crisis response, but multiple agencies have jurisdiction, and inadequate legislation made prosecution of terrorism-related offenses a challenge.

Following the 2012 application of a biometric fingerprinting system to include all land and sea entry points, the government began the third phase of an integrated border security system that will link to law enforcement databases.

On May 6, Kuwait’s Court of Cassation upheld the life sentences given to four defendants (two Iranians, a Kuwaiti, and a stateless man) convicted of belonging to an Iranian espionage cell. The cell’s seven members (four Iranians, a Kuwaiti, a Syrian, and a stateless man) were apprehended in May 2010 on charges of espionage, terrorist plotting, and vandalism. The rulings of the Court of Cassation are final.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism:
 Kuwait is a member of the Middle East North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. Kuwait Law 106/2013 was drafted in consultation with the International Monetary Fund to address the FATF recommendations. Law 106/2013 provides new mandates and powers to the government including the criminalization of the financing of terrorism, the requirement to report suspected terrorist financing, and the ability to freeze terrorist assets without delay. In October, FATF noted that Kuwait had made progress but called for the country to continue its effort to establish and implement adequate procedures to identify and freeze terrorist assets, ensure its financial intelligence unit (FIU) is effective, and ensure that institutions file suspicious transaction reports to the FIU. At year’s end, Kuwait was still operationalizing its FIU; the first chairman of the FIU was named in December. In preparation, Kuwaiti financial and designated non-financial institutions were reportedly upgrading their systems and processes and preparing to train their personnel to implement the new law.

The law also includes an article that calls for the implementation of UNSCRs 1267/1989 and 1373 (2001) and their successor resolutions with respect to freezing terrorist assets, although this has not yet been implemented.

In 2013, however, there were increased reports of Kuwait-based private individuals funneling charitable donations and other funds to violent extremist groups outside the country, particularly to Syria. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor is responsible for monitoring and supervising government-authorized charities, including enforcing the ban on cash donations except during Ramadan; implementing an enhanced receipt system for Ramadan cash donations; and coordinating closely with the Ministry of Islamic Affairs to monitor and prosecute fraudulent charitable operators.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.

Regional and International Cooperation:
 As in previous years, the Kuwaiti Armed Forces, National Guard, and Ministry of Interior conducted a number of exercises aimed at responding to terrorist attacks, including joint exercises with regional and international partners.

Kuwait also cooperated regionally and internationally on counterterrorism issues. Kuwait is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and holds the rotating GCC presidency for 2014. Kuwaiti officials issued statements encouraging enhanced cooperation among GCC and Arab League states on counterterrorism issues, including following the U.S.-GCC Strategic Cooperation Forum in New York in September 2013.

Throughout the year, Kuwaiti security professionals regularly participated in joint training programs around the world. In addition to Kuwait’s bilateral cooperation with the United States, Kuwaiti officials also worked with other international counterparts to conduct missions and exchange information.

KUWAIT

Overview: Kuwait lacked legal provisions that deal specifically with terrorism and terrorist financing, although the government maintained its efforts to counter terrorism and violent extremism, notably through other legal statutes and official statements. There were no significant attacks attributed to terrorists or terrorist organizations in 2012.

The risk of terrorist attacks in Kuwait remained high. As in previous years, the Kuwaiti Armed Forces, National Guard, and Ministry of Interior conducted a number of exercises aimed at responding to terrorist attacks, including joint exercises with regional and international partners.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Government of Kuwait lacks a clear legal framework for prosecuting terrorism-related crimes, often having to resort to other legal statutes to try suspected terrorists, which hampered enforcement efforts.

The government extended the application of the biometric fingerprinting system to include all land and sea entry points. The Interior Ministry announced plans to start operation of the advanced computer tomography x-ray monitor system at Kuwait International Airport to boost airport security authorities’ ability to detect contraband items, including explosives and metals, without the need for human inspection, thus reducing the chance for human error. However, the project announced by the government to install retina scanning capabilities at ports of entry had not been implemented by year’s end.

After the full implementation and distribution of smart civil ID cards to Kuwaiti citizens, the Public Authority for Civil Information started issuing the new smart ID cards to expatriates. With electronic chips that save large volumes of data, including photographs and fingerprints, the new ID cards are meant to enable holders to travel freely within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. Holders of the cards can also use them for electronic signature.

On May 28, Kuwait’s Court of Appeals commuted the death sentences of three defendants (two Iranians and a Kuwaiti), convicted of belonging to an Iranian espionage cell, to life in prison. The court also upheld the life imprisonment sentence for the fourth defendant (a stateless man) and the acquittal of two other Iranians, but overturned the life sentence imposed by a lower court against a Syrian defendant and acquitted him. The cell’s seven members (four Iranians, a Kuwaiti, a Syrian, and a stateless man) were apprehended in May 2010 on charges of espionage, terrorist plotting, and vandalism. The Court of Appeal’s verdicts are not final, and are expected to be challenged at the Court of Cassation (Supreme Court equivalent), whose rulings are final.

Countering Terrorist Finance: Kuwait is a member of the Middle East North Africa Financial Action Task Force, a Financial Action Task Force-style regional body. Of particular note, Kuwait lacked comprehensive legislation that criminalizes terrorist financing. In June 2012, Kuwait was publicly identified by the FATF as a jurisdiction with strategic anti-money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism deficiencies, for which it has developed an action plan with the FATF to address these weaknesses.

Kuwait had a comprehensive confiscation, freezing, and seizing framework that applies to all offenses under Kuwaiti criminal legislation. The lack of specific legislation related to terrorist finance precluded immediate freezes, although cases prosecuted under other elements of the criminal code were able to initiate freezing and confiscation of assets. Kuwait lacked an effective monitoring framework for transfers outside of the formal sector, and lacked explicit laws and regulations requiring due diligence on customer data.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor and Ministry of Foreign Affairs continued monitoring and supervising charities, including enforcing the ban on cash donations, except during Ramadan; implementing an enhanced receipt system for Ramadan cash donations; and coordinating closely with the Ministry of Islamic Affairs to monitor and prosecute fraudulent charities. The monitoring of foundations was not as comprehensive as it was for charities.

Despite these obstacles, competent authorities continued efforts to combat financial crimes. The Central Bank of Kuwait engaged the International Monetary Fund in a 12-month technical assistance program aimed at addressing weaknesses in Kuwait’s anti-money laundering/terrorist finance regime, and reached out to other partners as well.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, we refer you to the 2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimeshttp://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.

Regional and International Cooperation: On December 25, GCC heads of state signed a collective security agreement to enable member states to respond quickly to, and take appropriate preventive measures to confront potential security threats. The pact stipulates full cooperation between the six member states and delineates mutual responsibilities to preserve collective security and stability. It also promotes security coordination and information exchanges to help combat transnational and organized crime and terrorism. To be implemented, the 45-article treaty must be approved by the GCC countries’ parliaments and Shura councils.