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Gulf Guide Chapter 5: Human Trafficking
Gulf Guide Chapter 5: Human Trafficking

Illustration: Marcelle Louw for GIJN


» Guide

Chapter 5 – Experts Guide

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Experts on forced labor, human trafficking, and irregular migrant labor often focus on a specific country or specific migration corridor in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. It is strongly recommended to seek experts from both origin and destination countries as they can provide different insights into the various phases of the migration process.

International Labor Groups

International Labour Organization

Organization reports cover a range of topics related to trafficking and forced labor, and their authors can be contacted for further commentary. The ILO’s Regional Office for Arab States is based in Beirut and its current projects include the Regional Fair Migration Project in the Middle East. Their officers are useful points of contact and can put you in touch with researchers, activists, and government officers.

The ILO also launched a technical cooperation program with Qatar in 2017. The program is intended to help ensure Qatari laws comply with ratified international labor conventions and gradually live up to fundamental principles about worker rights. The program was initially set to end after three years, but is still ongoing and published its latest progress report in 2020.

International Organisation for Migration

The IOM has local offices in some destination countries, and sometimes intervenes to facilitate the repatriation of trafficked migrants. In addition to officials at these offices, authors of their various publications are also a useful resource.

Other Organizations

We’ve curated a list of organizations operating in the MENA migration corridors here.

Though formal civil society organizations (CSOs) are restricted in most Gulf states, there are several informal groups that do critical work in the region. Monitoring social media platforms – where a lot of the advocacy and information sharing happens – for these groups will give greater access to those on the ground.

Academics and Researchers

Labor migration is well-studied in many origin and destination countries. Local academics are likely to have case studies and insights gleaned from many years of studying migration and trafficking practices in their communities. Examples include:

  • K. Ranju Rangan, founder of Exodus Research and independent researcher who has been actively involved in labor migration issues of South-East Asians in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.
  •  Dr. Omar Alshehabi, Assistant Professor at the Gulf University for Science and Technology in Kuwait, who has published widely on migration and the political economy of the Gulf.
  • Dr. Zahra Babar, Associate Director for Research at CIRS at Georgetown University in Qatar whose research focuses heavily on migration in the region.
  • Dr. Shaiban Taqa, author of “The Legal Framework of Migrant Worker Rights in the Arab Countries.”
  • Dr. Bina Fernandez, author of “Migrant Domestic Workers in the Middle East: The Home and the World,” “Irregular Migration from Ethiopia to the Gulf States” and “Traffickers, Brokers, Employment Agents and Social Networks: The Regulation of Intermediaries in the Migration of Ethiopian Domestic Workers to the Middle East.”
  • Rooja Bajracharya and Bandita Sijapati, authors of “The Kafala System and Its Implications for Nepali Domestic Workers.”
  • Dr. Ray Jureidini, one of the leading experts on migration in the MENA region who kicked off the study of migrant domestic workers in Lebanon. He continues to publish regularly on migrant worker issues across the MENA region.
  • Dr. Nasra Shah, a Kuwait-based population studies specialist who has published several studies on migration and trafficking in the GCC.
  • Khalil Buhazaa, labor affairs manager at the Council of Ministers of Labour in GCC states and Ph.D. researcher on forced labor.

Origin Country Groups

Labor Attachés

Labor attachés can provide information on the issues specific to their workers in a particular country. They are alert to the common problems facing workers and the obstacles to resolving them.

Embassy Social Workers

Some embassies employ social workers for their communities’ welfare or assign them to specific cases involving their citizens. They have a wealth of information on victims of trafficking and forced labor and may be able to put you in touch with workers directly.

You can reach both labor attachés and social workers by contacting embassies of countries of origin. Embassy contact information can be easily found online. Note that in-person meetings will be more productive, as responsiveness via mail or phone is not always reliable.

If there is no particular embassy in the destination country, it is worth checking with the migrant community groups, or the closest embassy in the region, as they might have assigned a representative to handle their communities’ welfare in that destination country.

Migrant Civil Society Organizations

Grassroots organizations often have a wealth of information on migrants that is not published online. Look for migrant advocates at both the national and local level, as they have different stories and experiences to share. Examples include:

Regional examples:

Destination Country Groups

Migrant Civil Society Organizations

Local organizations may focus broadly on human rights or specifically on migrant rights, but in either case, they often have insight into trafficking hotspots as well as how the legal/social system treats these issues, and typically have direct experience. The Cross-Regional Center For Refugees and Migrants can connect reporters to various organizations and advocates in destination countries.

Migrant Networks and Communities

These organizations range from officially registered community organizations, like social clubs, to loose networks that aid compatriots in distress. Officially registered communities are easier to locate; many large origin countries have branches around the world. The informal networks are more difficult to access, but friendly embassy officials may be able to connect you. Examples of registered communities include:

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