By Alpha Kamara
Kuwait has stopped issuing visas to domestic helpers from Sierra Leone amid allegations of abuse by their employers, according to a news release Tuesday.
The move, in response to a request from the Sierra Leone government, is aimed at ending years of debate regarding allegations of abuse of Sierra Leoneans recruited and sent to Kuwait.
“Following concerns raised by the government of Sierra Leone through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation over the issuance of entry visas under Article 20 (of the Domestic Labour Law of Kuwait) to Sierra Leone nationals to work as house maids in the state of Kuwait, which has led to an influx of our nationals into Kuwait, creating serious problems and embarrassment to the government, the state of Kuwait through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Interior has taken a decision to stop the issuance of entry visas to Sierra Leoneans,” said Sierra Leone’s foreign affairs ministry.
Dozens of Sierra Leonean maids are trapped in Kuwait in a government detention camp awaiting repatriation after alleging they have been abused by their employers. Their passports have also been confiscated.
A maid in Kuwait who wanted to remain
“The other day, the Kuwaiti police stormed the camp and scattered all our belongings due to talk that someone among us had stolen a mobile phone. We were harassed, molested and nothing was found.
Now I am living in constant fear, missing my 7-year-old son, and I have not spoken to him since I came in March,” she said.
The government of Sierra Leone is also working with Kuwait to ensure the safe return of dozens of its nationals trapped in Cairo as domestic servants.
Human traffickers in the Middle East are targeting Sierra Leone, a poor country struggling to recover from outbreaks of the Ebola virus. They connive with local officials. The women are promised lucrative jobs abroad, only to find themselves trapped in the Middle East as maids. Some say they are being sexually assaulted.
Since 2015, the government of Sierra Leone and the International Office for Migration have repatriated 59 Sierra Leonean housemaids from Kuwait to Freetown following reports of serious human rights abuses from their employers.