It's Labor Day and everyone should be enjoying the start of their long weekend. But while you're taking a well-deserved break, why not think about helping some organizations help a group who probably didn't get today off: migrant workers.
We thought we'd highlight several non-governmental organizations that are fighting on behalf of some of the most marginalized workers within the region. The Kfala system is used in Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to monitor and control migrants working as construction or domestic workers.
In the system, migrant laborers are bound legally to their employers and often are not permitted to change jobs without their employers' consent. It is normal for employers to confiscate migrants' passports, request long hours, pay very low wages and even often withhold salaries. Employers are protected by the system, not the workers, causing many critics to refer to the system as "modern-day slavery."
Additionally, migrant laborers often are subject to physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Unnatural death and suicide rates are alarmingly high among these populations. Qatar has received significant criticism for its abuses of migrants workers in lights of its efforts to host the 2022 World Cup, requiring a significant amount of migrant laborers to construct new facilities for the international event.
Several regional and international NGOs work on behalf of this vulnerable segment of society. Here are four that are leading the charge for human rights within the region.
The Anti-Racism Movement is a grassroots movement in Lebanon by young activists and leaders within the migrant community. Together they work to fight injustice toward migrant laborers by "documenting, investigating, exposing and fighting racist practices in Lebanon, through various initiatives and campaigns," according to their website . In 2011, ARM opened the Migrant Community Center, which now serves as a space for migrant empowerment with the goal of being a center for migrants managed by migrants. The center provides classes, activities, events and legal advice to Lebanon's migrant community.
PAVE - Middle East and North Africa
Funded by the European Union, PAVE is a project implemented by the International Organization for Migration within the MENA region. Currently the project is scheduled for two years and works to "protect and assist exploited migrant workers" within the region according the campaign's Facebook page . While assisting the most vulnerable of migrants directly, the project also endeavors to work with governments and other organizations in the region "to protect against exploitation, exclusion, discrimination and xenophobic treatment."
Based in Jordan, the main aim of Tamkeen is "to combat all forms of discrimination, trafficking in persons, torture and ill-treatment," according to their website . Currently the NGO has three main programs that it is implementing: the migrant workers program, the human rights standards nationalization program and the human trafficking program. Through the promotion of legal knowledge within Jordanian society while also working to ensure enforcement of the existing rule of law and empowering marginalized groups, Tamkeen works on behalf of migrants and other vulnerable sectors of the Jordanian population.
Human Rights Watch
The international NGO Human Rights Watch is one of the strongest critics of Gulf nations and their human rights records, specifically abuse of migrant workers. Through ongoing research and reports, HRW works to raise awareness of migrant abuse within the region. In addition to exposing human rights abuses, HRW pressures governments and those in power to respect the rights of all individuals and secure justice. Throughout the region, HRW works to "uphold human dignity and advance the cause of human rights for all."