Sahl Al-Gunaid, Projects and Programs Manager, Kuwait Society for Human Rights
In a remarkable precedent in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the Kuwait Society for Human Rights as a non-governmental civil society organization has devised a way to ensure migrant workers' rights through a modern technology that makes them aware of their rights, and provides them with direct aid to be able to know their different rights in Kuwaiti law, and thus it helps them avoid any violation.It is now possible for migrant workers through a single click via their phones to know their legal rights and seek legal help if they need it. Through their phones which are connected to the Internet, they can access the "Electronic Platform" in six different languages (Arabic, English, French, Urdu, Hindi, and Filipino) and they can download the platform application to know the entire local and global legal rights of their labour issues.The idea of the platform and phone application is "very successful," especially that the migrant workers have smart phones to communicate with their families, friends and various relationships through applications (Viber, WhatsApp, and Skype .... Etc.) as the cost of smart phones has become accessible by them after China entered markets with cheap smart phones that are able to provide the same services as expensive phones. In addition, the communication by Internet applications may be semi free in Kuwait because of the significant availability of Internet service and in its very low cost.The use of smartphones in educating migrant workers ensures their successful access to project messages and undoubted reception of legal awareness messages.The Kuwait Society for Human Rights collaborated with the Dutch embassy in Kuwait for the implementation of this important human rights project, which it called "Together … to educate migrant workers on their rights in Kuwait." The project "seeks to find knowledge structure in the workers by raising their awareness of their rights through the languages they use and providing them with legal advice to reduce abuses against them."The Society believes at the launch of the project that the most powerful way to protect the worker from abuse is to enhance his/her knowledge of their rights in the first place. This belief came through the monitoring operations that were carried out by the Society, as well as complaints it received.Most notable amongst recent laws approved by the Government of Kuwait are "Law No. 91 of 2013 on combating human trafficking and smuggling of migrants" and "Law No. 68 of 2015 on the domestic labour", which created a legal basis that can be relied upon to protect the rights of migrant workers. These laws also put Kuwait within the ranks of states protecting the rights of migrant workers, whether in the civil or the domestic sectors. And domestic labour law has contributed to the creation of a new and essential legislative base in the field of the protection of domestic workers’ rights. It has also expressed the fulfilment of the government's international obligations, which makes it a must for all of us as individuals and various entities to support these efforts which will contribute to ensure workers' rights and access to a decent life. It is true that there are challenges in the application of those laws on the ground, but we consider their presence as a great achievement, and we can through the implementation of advocacy campaigns and lobbying ensure their implementation on the ground as required.Based on these good steps, this project came in to support the efforts made by the government in a way that contributes to the protection of workers' rights, especially if the government agencies work to consolidate their relationship and cooperation with civil society organizations to help in the provision of greater services to the community and implement their roles efficiently.This consolidation seemed evident when the Domestic Workers Department at the Ministry of Interior teamed up with the Society to issue together manuals on labor law for domestic workers"* using pictures as being more informative than written messages, and in recognition of the fact that most domestic workers’ legal awareness is low and thus images were used to assist in the delivery of the messages. These can achieve a large measure of influence on the minds of recipients on the arrival of the letters. They are provided in five different languages which translates domestic labour law. This fruitful cooperation provided by the Public Department for Residency Affairs at the Ministry of Interior shows that there is an honest tendency of the Government to raise awareness of workers' rights as well as their great keenness to involve civil society organizations in educating workers to contribute to the promotion of human rights in Kuwait.The manuals of domestic labour law which were issued will not be the last. It is just the first section of a group containing various manuals including labour law in the civil sector. Negotiation is currently conducted with the Public Authority for Labour Force (the government agency supervising the workers in Kuwait) to be a partner in the distribution and all the manuals will be distributed at airports, health centres and workers places. The pictures in these manuals are based on a proximate shape of the concept of the law through cartoon dialogue or comics, which contributes significantly to educating migrant workers on their legal rights and raises their awareness. This will positively influence the protection of their rights.The project does not stop at just migrant labour support, but it provides an important service to the government agencies, beginning with manuals associated with migrant labour laws: there is also a hotline which available in several languages to receive the workers’ inquiries and complaints; monitoring and documentation of violations that they were exposed to; and the publication of special periodic reports of the abuse and its kind.The government agencies whose work is related to issues of various violations against migrant labour will benefit from these reports. They will get the information for free, and the information will help them work accurately and fast in contributing to stop various violations of workers’ rights and workers’ access to a decent life.
* The booklets on Domestic Labor Law can be found in five languages on the following links (Arabic, English, Filipino, Hindi, Urdu).