The government continued robust efforts to prevent human trafficking. In November 2018, the Minister of Justice issued a ministerial decree on the formation of the Permanent National Committee for the Implementation of the National Strategy for the Prevention of Trafficking that was approved and funded by the Council of Ministers during the previous reporting year. The Committee did not officially convene during the reporting period; nonetheless, relevant government entities commenced implementation of several action items in the national anti-trafficking strategy. Key ministries, in collaboration with an international organization, financially supported and conducted numerous public awareness campaigns at shopping malls and the international airport to raise awareness of trafficking and warned against using illegal domestic labor recruitment companies. Various officials also took part in anti-trafficking awareness messaging on local television, radio, and social media platforms. It continued to disseminate pamphlets to educate migrant workers on their rights, which were published in multiple languages and disseminated in airports, embassies, and labor-recruitment agencies.
The domestic labor law (Law 68/15) guaranteed domestic workers one day off per week, a maximum 12-hour workday, minimum wages paid per month, paid annual leave, and access to file formal grievances at the MOI, among other protections. The 2016 by-laws regulated implementation of this law. Amendments to the 2010 labor law, passed in 2016, increased penalties for non-payment of wages, made mandatory documentation of all paid wages, and required prison time and fines for employers and government officials who failed to adhere to provisions of this law. During the reporting period, the government transferred the DLD from the MOI to PAM, based upon recommendations that having the DLD under the MOI deterred workers from seeking assistance. In adherence to the domestic labor law, the DLD received 433 complaints directly from domestic workers during the year, 1,835 from employers, and 60 from recruitment offices and companies. Of these, it referred 448 cases to the labor courts, collected 14,440 Kuwaiti dinar ($47,650) in unpaid wages for domestic workers, and referred 40 of these domestic workers to the government-run shelter during the reporting period. In addition, PAM shut down 72 companies and suspended 1,510 companies for being in violation of Kuwaiti labor laws. Authorities continued to apply the amended provisions of the domestic labor law by building a monetary reserve to adjudicate cases of labor law violations to pay unpaid wages and cover the costs of repatriation. For issuance or renewal of a license for a domestic labor recruitment firm, it enforced the rule that single offices must submit financial deposits of 40,000 Kuwaiti dinar ($132,010) with a two-year validity and larger companies to present a letter of guarantee worth 100,000 Kuwaiti dinar ($330,030).
The DLD continued to investigate domestic worker recruitment agencies and inspect residences to ensure compliance with the 2015 domestic labor law. In addition, it initiated investigations based on grievances filed by domestic workers, employers, and embassies of labor-sending countries. The government arbitrated such grievances and did not report referring any for criminal investigation or prosecution. During the reporting period, DLD officials received 1,328 work-related complaints, amicably resolved 579 in extrajudicial proceedings, referred 333 to labor courts for further investigation, and the others remained pending. The DLD also conducted 404 inspections of domestic worker recruitment firms and consequently permanently shut down 30 and suspended 11 such agencies for three to six months for violation of the domestic labor law, compared to 82 closures the previous year; officials did not refer any of these for criminal investigation or prosecution. Separately, the PAM received 16,626 official grievances from foreign laborers, the most common of which included pay discrepancies, denied requests to transfer employers, and disputes regarding overtime pay issuances. Authorities reported resolving 90 percent of the employment transfer grievances in favor of the employees, to include transference of employer or receipt of unpaid wages; it referred the remaining 5,805 unresolved cases via arbitration to the labor courts. At the close of the reporting period, the outcomes of these cases were unknown, and the government did not report referring any of these cases for criminal investigation or prosecution under the anti-trafficking law. In 2018, PAM investigated 248 companies engaged in fraudulent visa practices and referred all of them to the PPO or the MOI’s trafficking-specific investigative unit.
In February 2019, media reported the government’s centralized recruitment company—named Al Durra—recruited nearly 900 male and female domestic workers since its launch in late 2017. In adherence to the domestic labor law, Al Durra worked to reduce recruitment costs, curb illegal recruitment fees, provide greater oversight of recruiting practices, hire male domestic workers, and secure labor agreements for female employees. According to press reports, new workers from Sri Lanka, India, the Philippines, and Burkina Faso arrived to Kuwait via Al Durra, and 150 additional contracts remained in process at the conclusion of the reporting period. In May 2018, Kuwaiti officials signed an agreement with the Philippine government to regulate the recruitment and employment of Filipino domestic workers in Kuwait to better safeguard their legal protections. Based on this treaty, which entered into forced in January 2019, the Philippine government lifted its February 2018-imposed travel ban on sending Filipino workers to Kuwait. Similarly, in October 2018, Kuwait and India signed an MOU on broader protections for domestic workers, and ratified it in January 2019. This resulted in the end of India’s 2014 ban on sending Indian female domestic workers to Kuwait. The agreement with India guaranteed registration of the employee-sponsor contact information with the Indian Embassy, an established monthly minimum wage for Indian laborers, and all employers would use the government’s centralized recruitment company with Indian government-authorized recruitment agencies. In April 2018, the Commerce Ministry revoked the licenses of 116 domestic labor recruitment agencies for contravening Kuwaiti labor laws and exploiting an unspecified number of domestic workers during the course of their employment. This ministry also capped at 990 Kuwaiti dinar ($3,270) the ceiling for mandatory recruitment fees employers pay to agencies to recruit domestic employees; in actuality, a portion of these fees were transferred to the domestic employees. During the reporting period, authorities employed the services of the Mobile Labor Disputes Office to help workers in remote areas of the country file complaints against employers for labor law violations. The mobile unit was run by an emergency team of investigators, inspectors, translators, lawyers, and lay volunteers. Officials also advertised to migrant laborers online services that allowed workers and employers to dock and track workplace issues electronically, receive alerts if an employer filed an absconding charge, notify the respective source country embassy, and challenge legal settlements incurred. Both the DLD and the MOI’s anti-trafficking department operated hotlines to assist vulnerable migrant workers, to include potential trafficking victims, but neither entity reported how many trafficking-specific calls they received during the reporting period. The government made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex. The government provided annual anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.