The Modern Day Slavery in the GCC

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Slavery in the current day has followed a different direction than slavery in the past. People are migrating from one country to another as a result of increased globalization and foreign migration, either to seek jobs or to escape political insecurity in their home country. Over the years, the Middle East has attracted a large number of domestic workers from various continents, especially Asian and African nations. Nonetheless, there have been a number of complaints about breaches of those workers' rights. As a result, the aim of this paper is to investigate the issues affecting domestic migrant workers and their rights in the Middle East. The introduction of the Kafala system in the GCC has led to grave violations of the rights of domestic immigrant workers. The system is designed to regulate as well as employ migrant workers in Middle-East countries such as Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Sultanate of Oman and the Kingdom of Bahrain (The Economist par. 3). The countries entail GCC states. The 1973 boom in oil production in the Arabian Gulf regions characterized an unprecedented demand for labor in industrial, oil and construction sectors. Currently, domestic work remains the most important source of employment for domestic migrant workers (Manseau 26).

Exploitation of Domestic Migrant Workers

Most of the domestic workers become victims of exploitation by their employers, recruiting agencies as well as the government (Manseau 29). The worker often experiences humiliation and xenophobic behaviors as they are treated as lesser human beings. The mistreatment of domestic migrant workers such as denying them the freedom of movement has become an acceptable norm in the Middle East. Such mistreatments violate fundamental human rights and basic labor rights. The exploitation of the domestic workers is due to the extent legal structure of the GCC states that makes it impossible to provide legal protection for the workers.

Lack of Legal Binding Contracts

GCC countries do not have clear policies to engage migrant domestic workers in signing legal binding contracts that would help in outlining their responsibilities, rights and protections, terms of references, earning as well as the number of hours of work. In some cases, the workers sign contracts while still in their home countries, but after arriving in the Middle East, the contracts become sophisticated and replaced with those written in the Arabic language (Manseau 30). This makes the workers vulnerable to the violations of their freedom and rights to information and conducive work environment. As such, some workers become engaged in long working hours, harsh working conditions, less pay and limited freedom and hence a modern day type of slavery.

Extreme Working Conditions

The domestic migrants experience extreme working conditions with a limited number of offs, and their actions are restricted based on the demands of Islamic behavior. They are not in positions to access support networks, walk out of their work environment, visit friends, send or receive letter or worship. Such restrictions violate the workers' rights to communication, association, and worship and hence lead to a feeling of isolation as well as desperation.

Abuse of Female Domestic Migrant Workers

Furthermore, female domestic migrant workers in the Middle East face physical, psychological, sexual and verbal abuse (Jureidini 6). The workers are often at risk of experiencing sexual violence from male members of the families where they work or from their male employers. With the isolation and no freedom to access telephones, it becomes difficult for the workers to seek help. Besides, employers have subjected some of the workers to sadistic torture and rape. The exploitative conditions that the workers carry out their duties which often characterize low pay, wage deductions, abuse, violations of their rights, mistreatment and isolations depict the nature of the modern day slavery in the GCC (The Economist par. 4).


For a while, I have looked into the issues encompassing the modern day slavery and the possible challenges facing the domestic migrant workers in the Middle East. Based on my knowledge and understanding of human rights and its importance, denying individuals or domestic workers their fundamental freedoms while in their working environment as in the case with many GCC employers is a violation of the fundamental rights that ought to be enjoyed.


Given the above analysis of the situation of the workforce in the GCC states, it is a violation of human rights when workers are abused sexually, physically or psychologically (Jureidini 6). The international community should take all the necessary steps towards formulating a policy that would prevent labor and human rights exploitations in such countries otherwise; the problem will lead to effects that are more adverse.


It is a matter of practicality that workers should be treated with dignity and their rights should equally be upheld. It is, therefore, important that the governments of the affected countries take adequate actions toward ending the slavery.


With the introduction of oil wealth in the 1970s as well as the influx of migrant workers, the GCC states have ministered in the establishment of a discriminatory social hierarchy where domestic immigrant workers make up the lowest level of the social ladder. As such, the workers face series of human rights issues as aforementioned. This shows the nature of modern-day slavery in the world.

Works Cited

Jureidini, Ray. "Migrant workers and xenophobia in the Middle East." Racism and Public Policy. Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2005. 48-71.

Manseau, Gwenann S. "Contractual solutions for migrant labourers: The case of domestic workers in the Middle East." Human Rights Law Commentary 3 (2007): 25-47.

The Economist. Migration in the Gulf: Open doors but different laws. (2016). Retrieved from

January 13, 2023

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