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Gulf Guide - Domestic Slave

Illustration: Marcelle Louw for GIJN


Reporting on Migration in the Gulf: A Revised and Expanded GIJN Guide

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This updated and expanded guide was written in cooperation with Illustrations are by Marcelle Louw. The project manager was Majdoleen Hasan. Editing by Reed Richardson.

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Chapter Guide Resource

Introduction: GIJN Guide to Reporting on Migration in the Gulf Arab Countries

INTRODUCTION More than 23 million migrant workers live in the six Middle Eastern countries that make up the political and economic alliance known as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC): Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman. Unfortunately, abuse of these workers is widespread, mostly due to the legal framework of the kafala […]

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Chapter 1 – Best Practices and Suggested Topics in the COVID Era

This section was written by’s Vani Saraswathi. Reporting around labor migration in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is often framed around portraying migrant workers as victims, and does not recognize their agency or adequately capture their aspirational journey for a better life for their families and themselves. When COVID-19 brought the world to a […]

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Chapter 2 – COVID-19 and Migrant Workers in the Gulf

While the Gulf states have largely reopened their key sectors, migrants remain vulnerable to employment insecurity and exploitation. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many of the pre-existing issues that migrant workers face in the Gulf region, including non-payment of wages, exclusion from social protections, and limited access to healthcare. The migration systems and practices in […]

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Chapter 3 – Statistics and Studies

Data on human trafficking, forced labor, and irregular migration is everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Incidents are reported regularly, but this information tends to be scattered across media outlets, government reports, and the publications of civil society organizations. It is important to be aware of the limitations of such data, as methods and […]

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Chapter 4 – Essential Reading

Below we highlight the most critical sources for understanding trafficking, forced labor, and irregular migration issues in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Human Rights Reporting and News Human Rights Watch: HRW has produced multilingual reporting on the situation of migrant workers and domestic workers in the MENA region since the 2000s. Reports […]

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Chapter 5 – Experts Guide

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 […]

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Chapter 6 – Trafficking Case Studies

Below we profile 10 stories of trafficking and forced labor common throughout the countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region. Domestic Workers: Trafficking and Unscrupulous Recruitment Indian Women Duped by Recruiters. Indian women are regularly trafficked through the United Arab Emirates and forced to work as domestic workers in other countries in the GCC, […]

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Chapter 7 – First-Hand Reporting Accounts

There are few independent, locally-registered media outlets in the GCC, and much of the reporting on the region is carried out by either those who are based in the region reporting to media outside it or those who visit the countries often to report on it. Both these groups face constraints in access to information […]

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Chapter 8 – Key Terms

Forced labor, human trafficking, and undocumented migration are prevalent across the globe. In the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and wider Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, specific and shared characteristics of labor and migration laws and practices facilitate forced labor and human trafficking. Definitions The term “illegal migration” obfuscates the complicity of the state […]

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Chapter 10 – Reporting Guide for Bahrain

Media Environment The Bahraini constitution guarantees freedom of expression and the press, excluding opinions that undermine the fundamental beliefs of Islam or the “unity of the people” and those that promote “discord or sectarianism.” However, the Law of Press, Printing, and Publishing of 2002 is used to restrict free speech; Law 47/2002 includes 17 categories […]

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Chapter 11 – Reporting Guide for Kuwait

Media Environment Freedom of speech in Kuwait is protected according to Articles 36 and 37 of the country’s constitution. However, that freedom is limited according to what is “specified by the law.” Criticizing the nation’s top political leader, the Emir of Kuwait, is illegal and could lead to more than five years in prison, physical […]

Chapter Guide Resource

Chapter 12 – Reporting Guide for Oman

Media Environment Oman’s constitution guarantees freedom of expression, but with strong limitations. The 1984 Press and Publications law further outlines the restrictions on journalism and journalists in the country and explicitly prohibits defamation of the ruling family. It is common practice for journalists to self-censor to avoid threats, fines, and arrest. Journalists and media outlets […]

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Chapter 13 – Reporting Guide for Qatar

These tips were provided by Vani Saraswathi, a former Qatar-based journalist and associate editor for Media Environment While Qatar is home to the Al Jazeera network, the global satellite television news network based in the nation’s capital, Doha, there is little or no tolerance for critical reporting within the country. Overall, there is very […]

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Chapter 14 – Reporting Guide for Saudi Arabia

These tips were provided by a researcher on domestic workers in Saudi Arabia.  Media Environment The media environment in Saudi Arabia is repressive and freedom of speech and expression is limited. The country has repeatedly received heavy criticism from Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Americans for Democracy, and Human Rights in Bahrain, among […]

Chapter Guide Resource

Chapter 15 – Reporting Guide for United Arab Emirates

These tips were provided by Yasin Kakande, Ugandan journalist deported for covering migrant worker issues in the United Arab Emirates. Media Environment A journalist seeking to write about human trafficking in the UAE has to understand that any writing seen as contrary to the government narrative is a punishable offense. The local press law prohibits criticism […]