Migrant workers victims of forced labour in the Middle East

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migrant construction workers in Iraq

migrant construction workers

Over 600,000 migrant workers are victims of forced labour in the Middle East, according to the International Labour Organization ILO.

In a report on the status of migrant workers in the region issued on Wednesday, ILO says the workers are often tricked and trapped into forced labour and sexual exploitation and are prevented from leaving.

The report says although the Middle East region has one of the highest concentrations of migrant workers in the world, there are serious shortcomings in labour laws which expose the workers to exploitation.

ILO says migrant workers are threatened with detention or deportation when seeking to terminate their employment contracts or change employers.

Helene Harroff-Tavel from ILO says the absence of the right to freedom of association in many Arab countries remains a major obstacle to workers' ability to make their voices heard.

"The people that are trafficked in the Middle East are not abducted. But they are low skilled migrant workers who are looking for decent work. They are promised a specific job or certain specific working or living conditions and when they arrive in the countries they realize they have been deceived. They are trapped in the sense that they are caught in a situation of forced labour and they are unable to leave. If we look at domestic work for instance there is only one country that has taken steps to cover domestic workers under the labour laws and that is Jordan. All the others have drafted laws that have been subject to discussion but there is a major deficit in the labour coverage for domestic workers and it also includes other workers also like agricultural etc."

The ILO report proposes empowering ministries of labour in the region to oversee recruitment processes, to handle complaints by migrants and employers, and to verify allegations of mistreatment and respond accordingly.

Patrick Maigua United Nations Radio Geneva.

Duration 1.52

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