For the thousands of foreign workers employed as domestics in countries around the world, jobs often carry unanticipated dangers. Recruited by international agents who promise lucrative jobs in exchange for a large fee, these workers often discoverthat legal protections from exploitation or abuse are all but nonexistent. With no recourse, some are forced into virtual slavery or resort to crime and prostitution to survive.
EDC is zeroing in on this problem in Bahrain in the Persian Gulf. Working with the government and human rights organizations, staff are working to reform labor law and practice in the country and crack down on organized crime networks that traffic in human labor.
“Thanks to these collaborative efforts,” says EDC’s Elizabeth Markovic, “Bahrain is now seen as a role model for other Gulf countriesthat are interested in labor reform.”
Funded by USAID, the Labor Market Reform Initiative has drafted legislation, currently pending in Parliament, which would extend legal protection to foreign workers. Staff are also leading outreach efforts to government workers including judges, police,and prosecutors, as well as educating employers on fair labor practice. The project also provides professional support to a local migrant workers shelter.
At a three-day forum this year sponsored jointly by EDC, the Bahrain Human Rights Society, and the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions, international experts in human trafficking met with government leaders to explore additional ways to combat labor trafficking. Itwas the first time the issue was raised publicly in the country.
The next steps involve coordinating efforts of government and private sector agencies online with a joint databank and network for reporting instances of trafficking, sharing activities and resources, and providing a support system for victims.
Originally published on September 1, 2007