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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

By the way, there are 600,000 virtual slaves in the Middle East

Not that it is worth mentioning or anything, because they happen to be in societies that no one really expects any better from.
Millions of migrant workers flood to the Middle East from some of the world's poorest countries in search of paid work they won't find at home.

But for some, the journey doesn't end as they hope. Instead, they become victims of human trafficking, forced labor and sexual exploitation.
A report released Tuesday by the International Labor Organization paints a horrifying picture of migrant workers who find themselves trapped in appalling conditions without any way to get out.

"Our research team interviewed hundreds of workers and their experiences independent of country were very similar, actually," Beate Andrees, the report's author and head of the ILO's Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour, told CNN.

"They were lured into jobs that either didn't exist or that were offered under conditions that were very different from what they were promised in the first place," she said.

Data is scarce, but the ILO estimates as many as 600,000 people may be victims of forced labor across the Middle East.

That equates to 3.4 in every 1,000 of the region's inhabitants being compelled to work against their free choice, the ILO said.

The study, titled "Tricked and Trapped: Human Trafficking in the Middle East," is based on more than 650 interviews done over a two-year period in Jordan, Lebanon, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

Domestic workers are particularly vulnerable because their isolation in private homes, without inspections, makes them more vulnerable to exploitation and forced labor, the ILO said.

Among the conditions they may face are: being denied proper time off; being confined to their place of work; being placed under surveillance; being made to live in degrading conditions, like sleeping in a kitchen or hallway; or having their identity papers confiscated or wages withheld so they can't leave.

In more extreme cases, they may be subject to physical and sexual violence.

A Filipina domestic worker in Lebanon told the ILO she was caught after trying to escape by climbing out over the balcony.

"My employer broke my elbow and then tied my hands behind my back. They left me one day long in my room and put a camera there. He threatened me: 'I'll accuse you of stealing money and ask for my money back, and they will throw you in jail!'" she is quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, those who are coerced into sex work within the entertainment industry face a "real" risk of violence, detention or deportation, the report said.

"Owners and managers of entertainment establishments, and sex brokers (pimps), do not hesitate to use threats of denunciation to the authorities and family repudiation, and actual psychological, physical and sexual violence, to intimidate their victims," the report says.

"The impossibility of leaving the exploiter is entrenched by the fact that women known to have engaged in sex work have limited opportunities to secure income by other means."

The presence of migrant workers is also vital to the economies of many countries in the Middle East -- and in some, they outnumber the national workers substantially, the ILO points out.

In Qatar, an astonishing 94% of workers are migrants, while in Saudi Arabia that figure is over 50%, the report says. Migrants also make up a significant part of the workforce in Jordan and Lebanon.

(h/t Yoel)