Kuwait looks at foreign workers sold as slaves on social media

This follows a BBC Arabic investigation and touches several Gulf countries. Women offered as "workers" and filtered according to criteria like age, race, character, origins. The sponsorship system (Kefala) is one of the factors that has facilitated the practice.


Kuwait City (AsiaNews) – Kuwaiti has launched a vast operation against a human trafficking racket using social media, including Instagram, the photo and video-sharing social networking service.

Following an investigation by BBC News Arabic, local authorities opened an inquiry into a number of accounts used for slave trading.

The British news outlet uncovered a huge online market that used mobile applications on Apple and Google, including Facebook-owned popular photo app.

Women were offered for sale as workers via hashtags such as "maids for transfer" or "maids for sale".

The practice involves thousands of women and men, with their images posted on social media and filtered by specific criteria like age, race, character, origins.

This kind of trade is widespread in several Gulf countries, Kuwait included, and is growing rapidly.

Although advertised as domestic employment, the jobs offered are akin to slavery with workers sold to the highest bidder.

Following the inquiry, Instagram and other social media started removing sensitive content, blocking hashtags, and banning new accounts.

Mubarak Al-Azimi, head of Kuwait's Public Authority for Manpower, said his agency was investigating a woman featured in the BBC report who sold a 16-year-old girl from Guinea via an app.

A police officer who also featured in the report is equally under investigation by the authorities.

In Kuwait, most families employ domestic workers, usually from the poorest areas of Asia or Africa.

The BBC Arabic undercover team spoke to 57 app users and visited more than a dozen people who were trying to sell them their domestic worker via a popular commodity app called 4Sale.

Some of the listings included personal traits such as “clean and smiley”. In certain listings, “sellers” suggested denying workers a "day or a minute or a second" off.

One of the factors that has facilitated the enslavement of domestic workers is the so-called Kefala or sponsorship system, which requires foreign workers to ask for "permission" from their employers to change jobs or leave the country.

Recently one Gulf nation, Qatar, abolished this practice but abuses remain widespread.

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