World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

Call for investigation into abuses of human rights of migrants in the countries of the Persian Gulf

24 November 2000

Letter to Ms Gabriela Rodriguez, UN special rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, 24 November 2000.

Dear Ms Rodriguez,

We are deeply concerned about the situation of migrant workers in the Persian Gulf countries and ask you to investigate their situation as part of your mandate.
The many reports of beatings, deaths and suicides of domestic migrant workers make such an investigation by your office necessary.

The International Catholic Migration Commission and the World Council of Churches have a long history of advocating for the rights of migrant workers. It is in that spirit that we ask your office to take up the challenge of examining the particular needs of migrant workers in the Gulf.

As you know, large numbers of migrant workers are present in the Gulf countries; although accurate statistics are not available, we understand that they number close to twelve million, with the majority coming from South Asia and Egypt.

We know from reports of human rights organizations, migrants' associations and other sources, that migrants in the Gulf face serious difficulties. Of particular concern to us are reports of serious abuse, the routine confiscation of passports by employers or sponsors, and the lack of adequate judicial recourse when conflicts arise between workers and employers.

We are especially troubled by the vulnerability of workers whose passports are taken by their employers. Moreover, the involvement of private recruitment and sponsoring agencies makes it difficult to assign responsibility when a migrant worker does not receive promised wages or benefits. When legal recourse does exist, it is often so time-consuming and expensive that migrants are unable to use such mechanisms.

Domestic workers are particularly vulnerable because they are not included in the labour laws of most Gulf countries. This means they have no legal recourse whatsoever when an employer requires them to work eighteen hours a day, seven days a week.

In a world where migrant workers face difficulties in every region, the situation in the Gulf countries is a particularly difficult one which requires further investigation. Unlike other parts of the world where migrant workers are present, there are no local organizations in the Gulf which can give migrants a voice.

We hope your office will be able to visit the region to collect first-hand accounts of the situation from both governments and migrants, and then to recommend appropriate actions to the UN Human Rights Commission.




Dwain C. Epps                                            William Canny

Director                                                       Secretary-General

Commission of the Churches                       International Catholic

on International Affairs                               Migration Commission