Rep. Grijalva Marks Human Rights Day by Urging End to Human Trafficking and Labor Abuses in Gulf Countries
December 14, 2020
TUCSON— Today, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva led 29 Members of Congress in a letter calling on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to address the prevalence of human rights violations, including human trafficking and labor abuses, within the Gulf Cooperation Council member states. The letter requests Secretary Pompeo to urge the GCC to make significant and lasting improvements with regard to legal protections, gender equality, and labor rights for migrant worker while completely reforming or abolishing the Kafala system in the region.
"On Human Rights Day, the U.S. must send a strong and unequivocal signal that human rights violations will not be tolerated,” said Rep. Grijalva. “The U.S. cannot turn a blind eye when countries like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates continue to trap millions of migrant workers into working and living conditions that border modern-day slavery. We must call on these countries to dismantle these deeply-entrenched systems that are ridden with loopholes that allow for abuses and exploitation to take place and urge strong reforms that are more than just words on paper. Bold U.S. leadership means upholding human rights and demanding accountability from our partners."
“We call on you to take the appropriate diplomatic means to encourage GCC member states to combat human trafficking by systematically improving gender equality and migrant labor rights,” the lawmakers wrote. “We ask that the U.S. government emphasize that this pursuit cannot fully be realized until the Kafala system has undergone complete reform or is abolished in its entirety.”
“It is encouraging to see progressive members of Congress stand up to human trafficking and labor exploitation in the Gulf Region" said Maya Garner, Spokesperson for International UN Watch. "This letter is important for directly addressing the Kafala sponsorship system as a root cause of this abuse, and for looking at the contributing factors of gender inequality, and labor and migrant rights violations. Widespread reform is urgently needed, as is respecting the rights of domestic workers. I hope to see more members of Congress and American civil society urge GCC member states to fully comply with international human rights standards."
The letter is also endorsed by Just Foreign Policy, Amnesty International, Freedom Forward, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), Freedom Initiative, the Saudi American Justice Project, Win Without War, GLJ-ILRF and Demand Progress