The government maintained efforts to prevent human trafficking, though it did not take any new steps to reform the problematic sponsorship system. The Permanent National Committee for the Implementation of the National Strategy for the Prevention of Trafficking, established in 2018, officially convened for the first time and met a total of five times during the reporting period. 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. The government 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. In August 2019, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, in collaboration with an international organization, organized a three-day awareness campaign to mark “World Day Against Trafficking in Persons”—approximately 250 civilians visited the trafficking booth and participated in a related online survey. In honor of International Migrants Day and in partnership with an international organization, Kuwaiti officials also hosted a seminar on promoting and protecting the rights of foreign workers in Kuwait; the event reached 130 participants from various ministries and embassies.
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 ministerial resolution of 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. 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). In July 2019, PAM formed specialized administrative and oversight teams within the DWED aimed at safeguarding the rights of domestic workers. The new teams are comprised of 34 employees that will manage arbitration of workplace disputes, inspection of premises, and licensing of firms.
The DWED continued to investigate domestic worker recruitment agencies 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 reported referring an unspecified number of cases for criminal investigation or prosecution. During the reporting period, DWED officials received 2,887 work-related complaints, amicably resolved 2,192 in extrajudicial proceedings, referred 499 to labor and criminal courts for further investigation, and the others remained pending. The DWED also conducted 80 inspections of domestic worker recruitment firms and consequently permanently shut down 18 and suspended 52 for three to six months for violation of the domestic labor law, compared to 30 closures the previous year; officials did not refer any of these for criminal investigation or prosecution. Separately, PAM received 15,982 official grievances from foreign laborers, the most common of which included pay discrepancies, denied requests to transfer employers after the required two years with an initial sponsor, 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 6,060 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 2019, PAM conducted and/or participated in more than 50,300 inspections to ensure labor and residency laws were fully implemented by employers; these inspections resulted in roughly 5,000 citations and fines against violating companies. Additionally, PAM identified hundreds of companies that engaged in fraudulent practices by sponsoring workers yet failing to provide legitimate employment. Accordingly, PAM officials referred 422 labor law violations to MOI’s investigative department, permanently revoked files of 115 companies, and temporarily suspended files of more than 3,400 companies in contravention of local labor laws. Under Kuwaiti law, a blocked file precludes companies from transferring workers to other employers, hiring new employees, and renewing their licenses to operate.
In adherence to the domestic labor law, the government’s centralized recruitment company, 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. However, during the reporting period, Al-Durra stopped working with expatriate employers after complaints suggested the mechanism was established to help Kuwaitis and was subsequently made available for Kuwaiti citizens only. The most common nationalities hired previously through Al-Durra included those from the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, and Burkina Faso. 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; however, due to reports of maltreatment and deaths of Filipino domestic workers, in January 2020 the Philippine government reinstated its ban on new recruits to Kuwait. The ban was quickly lifted again in February 2020 after a diplomatic agreement was reached between the two governments. The Commerce Ministry 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. PAM maintained a hotline to receive general workplace grievances and potential trafficking cases, while DWED had an email address for the same purpose; neither entity reported how many trafficking-specific calls they received during the reporting period. The government provided annual anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.