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Where citizens are banned from working as maids in the Kafala States

Above is a map showing which countries ban their citizens from working in countries that use what Majeed al-Alawi, Bahrain Labour Minister, has described as the Kafala slavery system.

Note that bans are usually just for one country, although some, such as Indonesia, have banned all such places and more. If a country makes a ban involving a Kafala state, it goes on this map. Please, if you have corrections or additions then make a comment on this post – it will be attended to.

The ban reason is simple: abuse cases such as one last year in Riyadh where a Filipina was scorched with water. Description of the case first came to the notice of this author via Facebook (appeared on 17/5/14 although date of event unknown), it was also reported by The Independent and ABS-CBN (caution: graphic images). Facebook message translated from Tagalog with extra details from other communication:

“This is my cousin who is working as a DH (Domestic Helper) for two months here in Riyadh, KSA. Her female employer poured boiling water all over her body. In her first five days’ of stay with her employers, she was already mistreated by her male employer, by beating her almost everyday and sometimes leaving her to starvation. This incident took place without giving her immediate medical attention. 6 hours passed and it’s only until then that they decided to bring her to the clinic only for a check-up then brought her back home again and urged her to continue her work despite her condition. They also mistreated her again. I hope her [censored] employers find their conscience.”

The map has 4 categories:

  1. Kafala States
  2. Current ban imposed by home country
  3. Current ban imposed by home and a Kafala State
  4. Possible future ban by home country

There used to be an extra category, past bans, but India now has a current ban so I removed the category. In more detail:

Kafala States

These are Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman, according to Wikipedia. As stated by the Bahrain Labour Minister, Kafala is a sponsorship slavery system for keeping expatriate or migrant workers against their will or on unfavourable terms.

Current ban imposed by home country

Most countries highlighted on this map fall in this category. I have simply based it on media reports, please let me know via comments if it’s incorrect or out of date. They are:

  1. Pakistan (ban on going to United Arab Emirates)
  2. India (ban on going to Kuwait)
  3. Nepal (ban on women under 30 years old going to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Oman, although this may be stopping soon)
  4. Bangladesh (ban on same list of countries as for Nepal although that also may be stopping soon)
  5. Indonesia (same list as above banned, along with Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, Palestinian territories, South Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen)
  6. Mauritania (ban on going to Saudi Arabia)
  7. Kenya (ban on the same list of countries as for Nepal)
  8. Sierra Leone (ban on going to Kuwait, although it appears to have been flouted)
  9. Syria – reported by Syrian national living in Kuwait. No news reports of this could be found although there is plenty of reportage about such countries’ lack of support for Syrian refugees.

Current ban imposed by home and a Kafala State

  1. Ethiopia (mutual ban with Kuwait)

Possible future ban by home country

  1. Philippines (ban on going to United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait)

Further examples of abuse are documented by Adega911 and on Middle East Domestic Help Abuse Reporting crowdmap, which inspired that above:


Middle East Domestic Help Abuse Reporting crowdmap

The abovementioned abuse of the Filipina maid in Saudi Arabia inspired the establishment of the Kuwait Human Rights Mapup. This ran for about 7 months before its leader was forced to stop. A number of events were run by the group, including making the webmap at the start of this post and 2 other static maps, as well as approximately 5 field trips to ‘maid malls’ in Hawally, a suburb of Kuwait city. Following is the advertisement for the first event:


Here are flyers for two more events, each with a map about the topic:

12A limited amount can be done by small groups of active citizens – although if you want to do some advocacy, do check out Adega911. With governments, however, starting to ban their own people working in countries with the Kafala system of slavery, the message is finally getting out. An aspect to focus on for local advocacy groups could be where these bans are being ignored – as is happening for those from Sierra Leone in Kuwait – and are therefore failing to protect citizens.


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This entry was posted on December 18, 2015 by in Commentary, Immigration, Migration and tagged , , .

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