You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2017 05 27Article 541750

Opinions of Saturday, 27 May 2017

Columnist: Kwaku Badu

The Middle East forced labour bandits and the polemic of slavery conventions

The recent countless images and voice messages which are making the rounds on the social media and purported to be from migrants (to be precise, migrant women in the Middle East), represent nothing, but sheer cruelty and degrading treatment or punishment.

To be quite honest, the images are extremely inhumane and must not be allowed to pass without scolding and shaming the perpetrators.

It is being reported that the migrant women in some Middle East countries are often forced to undertake penal servitude (work without remunerations).

According to an eye witness account, the migrant women are forced to undertake variety of household chores, including taking care of children and caring for the sick and the aged, purportedly, with little or no remunerations.

More worryingly, credible sources have it that many migrant women are often kept under lock in their adopted homes by their ‘masters’.

Apparently, the migrant women are being tortured and raped day in and day out. It would, however, appear that the migrant women don't have equality, they don't have freedom, and they don't even have respect and dignity in any meaningful sense.

But then again, such an abhorrent behaviour should not surprise some of us, as most women from that part of the world are believed to be discriminated against in all walks of life, including jobs, pay, education and welfare.

Whatever the case, we cannot and must not stand aside and look whilst our country women are being treated as slaves elsewhere.

In this day and age, no country should be allowed to trample upon the inalienable human rights of its own citizens, let alone the citizens from elsewhere.

It is, however, worth emphasising that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights outlaws some practices directly related to trafficking, inter alia, slavery, servitude, the slave trade and forced or compulsory labour.

And what is more, the 1926 Slavery Convention decriminalises slavery. Whilst its 1953 amended Convention delineates practices which are comparable to slavery, including debt bondage and institutions and practices that discriminate against women in the contest of marriage.

Moreover, some of the relevant international instruments that have been enacted to specifically combat slavery and human trafficking include the Palermo Protocol, an addendum to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (2000).

Article 5 of the Protocol for instance, obligates States to criminalise trafficking, attempted trafficking, and any other deliberate involvement or arrangement in a trafficking scheme.

Granted, those ladies willingly or unwillingly travelled to those countries, the authorities or the citizenry have no given rights to maltreat or afflict pain on them.

As a matter of fact, any migrant, whether legal or illegal, is equally protected under the international law.

It is, however, worth stressing that the 1951 Refugee Convention is an important instrument in the protection and defending of the rights of aliens, refugees and stateless persons.

More significantly, Articles 31, 32 and 33 of the 1951 Refugee Convention protect against the prosecution for illegal entry and protection against expulsion (Refoulement).

Then again, if the migrant women were sent to those countries by registered agencies with a view to working legally, they might as well be covered under the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and their Family Members.

Obviously, the Migrant Workers Convention discourages all forms of discriminations, including forced or compulsory labour.

More importantly, migrant workers are protected through the principles and standards set forth in the relevant instruments such as the International Labour Organisation, especially the Convention concerning Migration for Employment (No. 97), the Convention concerning Migrations in Abusive Conditions and the Promotion of Equality of Opportunity and Treatment of Migrant Workers (No. 143), the Recommendation concerning Migration for Employment (No. 86), the Recommendation concerning Migrant Workers (No. 151), the Convention concerning Forced or Compulsory Labour (No. 29) and the Convention concerning Abolition of Forced Labour (No. 105) (UN 2016).

In this instance, it seems that those involved are acting illegally as it is being reported that the agencies more often than not, put the migrant women into forced labour.

If that was the case, then clearly, those individuals are in breach of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime.

Of course, we could assume that the migrant women have been acting naively for falling into the impenitent imps wicked traps.

Nonetheless, the migrant women’s apparent servile compliance cannot in anyway take away the heinous crime being committed by the forced labour bandits.

In my view, the problem could be solved on three fronts.

First of all, the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations and the Ministry of Trade must ban all such unscrupulous labour agencies as a matter of urgency.

Secondly, the Ministry of Information should undertake a nationwide education and awareness campaign to alert the potential job-seeking bandwagon of the dangers in falling for the numerous adverts on the non-existent lucrative employment opportunities in the Middle East.

Finally, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as a matter of urgency, should put in an official complaint to the authorities of those countries and then proceed with a petition to the United Nations Human Rights Council, who has the mandate to bring abusive nations to book.

It must, however, be emphasised that the United Nations places emphasis on “the dignity and worth of the human person and the equal rights of all men and women”.

“The recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world” (UN 1948).

In sum, all the stakeholders must come together and work strenuously with a clear intention of halting the apparent slavery.