Sierra Leone women sold for slave labour in Kuwait

Adama, 24, a domestic worker from Sierra Leone, shows the scars on her leg, which she claims were caused when her Kuwaiti employer deliberately spilled hot oil on her. Photograph: Pete Pattisson

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Women from Sierra Leone ‘sold like slaves‘ into domestic work in Kuwait

Recruitment agents are accused of duping women into working as housemaids, leaving them isolated and abandoned in private households

Pete Pattisson in Kuwait City

Thursday 2 April 2015 14.23 BST

In the basement of an old tower block near Kuwait City, recruitment agents brandish files full of healthy, work-ready domestic workers. “Choose the one you want,” says one agent with a smile. “I will give you a hundred days’ guarantee. If you don’t like her you can send her back.”

In Kuwait the domestic workers business is booming, with nearly 90% of Kuwaiti households employing at least one foreign maid.

Yet while dozens of recruitment agencies are pulling out the stops to attract potential employers – including parading women in front of potential employers who can take them home on the spot – they are also being accused of selling women and duping them into a life of domestic servitude.

Women from Sierra Leone formerly employed as domestic workers in private Kuwaiti households said they had been “sold like slaves” by recruitment agents to families in the Kuwaiti capital and then resold multiple times.

Each said that they had paid about £1,000 ($1,480) to recruitment agents in Sierra Leone on the promise of jobs as nurses in hospitals or in the hotel industry, only to find on arrival that they were to be offered to families as housemaids and expected to work for up to 22 hours a day.

“[The agents] took us to their offices and people would come to look at us,” said one woman who worked as a nurse in Sierra Leone. “If they said, ‘I want this person’, they took you to their house.”

Adama, 24, said that after being selected by a Kuwaiti family she was taken to their house and treated “like a slave”.

“You have to work 24 hours [with] no day off. You can never leave the house … You are not allowed to use mobile phones. These people are not good.”

She raises her skirt to reveal a deeply scarred leg. Adama claims her employer paid her nothing for her work and deliberately spilled hot oil on her while she was cooking. “I was crying, [but] she did not even look at me. I said, ‘Madam, why you do this to me?’ She told me that I’m a slave … I’m too slow, I’m not fast enough.”

Employers are given a 100-day guarantee by agents, which allows them to return domestic workers they are not happy with and get a refund. As well as keeping employers happy, this also creates a booming “second-hand” market where returned domestic workers can be resold to other families for up to two years.

Thousands of women travel to Kuwait every year to work. Workers come from across Asia but also, increasingly, from Africa, with women being recruited by agents in countries such as Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Kenya and Ethiopia.

Once employed as domestic workers in Kuwait, women find it difficult to leave if they suffer abuse. Under Kuwait’s kafala sponsorship system, domestic workers are not allowed to leave or change jobs without their employer’s permission. With their residency status also tied to their employer, if they run away they become “illegal”.

Last year, stories of abuse suffered by Sierra Leonean women in Kuwait prompted the country’s authorities to follow other governments, including those of Indonesia and Nepal, in banning its citizens from being employed as domestic workers in the country. Yet they continue to come through informal channels.

Despite the official ban, when staff from the Sierra Leonean embassy visited recruitment agents recently they found about 100 women from Sierra Leone on their books. Saidu Bangura, the cultural attache at the Sierra Leone embassy in Kuwait, believes the real figure is “far above that”.

“It’s a total deception,” said Bangura. “Recruitment agents in Kuwait contact agents in Sierra Leone through the internet and ask them to recruit workers. I want to appeal to these women not to believe anyone who wants them to come to Kuwait. It’s only going to bring punishment and distress.”

Once in Kuwait, women often completely disappear from view. Isolated in private households and excluded from Kuwait’s labour rights legislation, they are extremely vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

Human Rights Watch says that the embassies of labour-sending countries in Kuwait received more than 10,000 complaints from domestic workers in 2009. The grievances included “nonpayment of wages; withholding of passports; excessively long working hours without rest; and physical, sexual, and psychological abuse”.

“The sense of having ‘paid for’ or having ‘bought’ a worker makes some employers feel entitled to treat the worker however they wish,” concludes a 2010 Human Rights report into the abuse of domestic workers in Kuwaiti households.

Kuwait has the highest ratio of domestic workers to citizens in the Middle East, with one domestic worker for every two Kuwaiti citizens, according to the same report. Figures from Kuwait’s population census state there were 246,000 men and women in domestic service in 2005, accounting for 21.9% of total employment in the country, but some estimates put the latest figure at approximately 660,000.

Once in their place of work, many remain hidden behind the closed doors of the vast tan-coloured mansions in the city’s wealthy residential areas. One long-term resident, who didn’t want to be named, said that workers are effectively abandoned once placed with employers.

“The recruitment agents never check on their domestic workers; whether they get food, are able to talk to their family or get a day off,” he said. “They have already got their money, so they never check.”

Rima Kalush, co-director of, says that although agents are legally responsible for a domestic worker for the first three months of their contract, in reality – unless an employer has a problem with their worker – checks are rarely made.

“The concept of monitoring domestic work is contested by many governments worldwide, who claim such check-ups would comprise the privacy of the home,” she says. “There are many cases of women disappearing – we’ve received reports from several family members. Sometimes workers are later found, but many cases remain unresolved.”

Some of the domestic workers interviewed by the Guardian allege that they have also been mistreated by the agents who are supposed to represent their interests. Adama claims that, after her employer returned her to her agent, she was locked inside a house for three days with no food while her agent tried to find another buyer.

She escaped and sought refuge at the Sierra Leonean embassy, before she was moved to a Kuwaiti shelter for runaway maids, where she joined an estimated 300 former domestic workers awaiting deportation to their home countries. Many of those stuck there has been sent by their embassies, who considered it the best way to help them return.

At the shelter, women find themselves in another type of prison. Under Kuwaiti law, employers are obliged to report any worker who has “absconded” from a private home. Their residency permit is then cancelled and orders are issued to detain and deport them. While the facility is immaculate, with a large outdoor area and spotless corridors, those sheltering here are not allowed to go outside or use mobile phones. They can contact their families, but only on the shelter’s phone, and only at weekends. Women can be trapped here for months, if not years.

Despite promises of reform, the Kuwaiti government has not yet passed a law to protect domestic workers, who are not given the basic labour rights provided to other workers under national law.

“There has been a draft law for domestic workers for a long time, but it has not been passed by parliament,” said Abdul Alghanim, head of the migrant workers office at the Kuwait Trade Union Federation. “In my opinion the government and parliament are not interested in taking serious steps for that.”

Until then, women like Alima, another Sierra Leonean in the government shelter, will continue to suffer in Kuwait. A few weeks after arriving in the country, Alima discovered she was pregnant, but her agent refused to send her home unless her family sent money for the flight, which they could not afford to do.

And so Alima gave birth to her son Richie alone in a Kuwaiti hospital. “I just want to go home,” she sobbed, clutching her three-week-old boy. “I have suffered too much here.”

‘Dutch government, don’t deport refugees to Ebola countries’

This 26 June 2014 video is called Monkey Meat and the Ebola Outbreak in Liberia.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

“Asylum seekers should not be returned to Ebola countries”

Monday Oct 20, 2014, 11:06 (Update: 20-10-14, 11:17)

Teeven, Dutch State Secretary of Homeland Security and Justice, temporarily should not return asylum seekers to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia because of the Ebola crisis. [Opposition parties] SP, D66, Christian Union and Green Left say so, reports The Morning radio show.

The opposition parties think it is inhumane to send back asylum seekers to those countries now. Also, the government has “double standards,” said D66 parliamentarian Schouw in the show. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs recommends not to travel to those countries, but the Justice Department says that asylum seekers can be deported there OK.”

According to Schouw, the Netherlands should follow Belgium’s example. There, it has already been decided that asylum seekers will not be returned to countries where Ebola is rampant.

The world’s political and economic elite, the financial aristocracy that dominates the global capitalist system, will take only token measures to help the millions who face sickness and death in the Ebola epidemic ravaging West Africa. This is clear from the dismal response to appeals from doctors, nurses and aid workers fighting the epidemic, and from leaders of the three hardest-hit countries, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea: here.

TV audiences in Britain could be forgiven for believing that international aid is confined to US and British military personnel arriving in west Africa to build medical facilities, alongside representatives of Medecins Sans Frontieres. Thursday’s early morning BBC World News did let slip that medical teams from China were also there, but that’s it. Morning Star readers know the impact that socialist Cuba has in not only deploying 50,000 health professionals in 66 developing countries but in sending its teams immediately when crises erupt: here.

Counting birds, from the Netherlands to South Africa

This video is called Gambia birding near Kotu Creek.

Last January, there was the first bird count ever all along the eastern Atlantic shores, in thirty countries, from the Netherlands to South Africa.

From the reports by the counters (translated):

Simon Delany counted in Gambia: “Baobolong is a gem of a wetland north of the Gambia River. … We walked huge distances. The counter is at forty species, including black storks, six hundred African spoonbills, pratincoles and ten species of wintering waders.”

From Mauritania:

On 22 January, he counted the birds at a small freshwater pond in Nouakchot. “Immediately, a barn swallow. And black-tailed godwit, spoonbill, ruff and shoveler as well.”

In Sierra Leone, a Dutch black-tailed godwit was seen near Kagboro Creek. Meanwhile, contact has been established between bird counter Papanie Bai Sesay and Dutch researchers. The godwit was ringed on May 14, 2012 in the Kamperpolder. There were at least a hundred godwits more in the same area.

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The Amistad slave rebellion, new book

This video says about itself:

The Middle Passage CLIP

3 July 2012

The story of an African slave who was sold into slavery by the King of Dahomey, shackled and transported on a journey shared with some six hundred others– a journey barely half would survive.

Soundtrack in English and Spanish with subtitles in English, Spanish and French; closed captioned.

This video says about itself:

The Middle Passage, Documentary by Steven Spielberg

2 Nov 2013

Narrated by Debbie Allen

For weeks, months, sometimes as long as a year, they waited in the dungeons of the slave factories scattered along Africa’s western coast. They had already made the long, difficult journey from Africa’s interior — but just barely. Out of the roughly 20 million who were taken from their homes and sold into slavery, half didn’t complete the journey to the African coast, most of those dying along the way.

And the worst was yet to come.

By Gordon Parsons in Britain:

Books: The Amistad Rebellion

Tuesday 7th January 2013

Contemporary lessons in story of courage and solidarity

The Amistad Rebellion

By Marcus Rediker

Verso: £20.00

According to a visitor to Sierra Leone in 1848, “No-one can get a realising sense of the horrors of a slave ship from any oral or written description – it must be seen or felt”.

Steven Spielberg’s 1997 film, Amistad brought to popular attention a major event in the long continuing struggle against slavery. A three minute viewing of the You Tube clip The Middle Passage – from the film – will convey something of the ghastly journey suffered by the estimated 12 million slaves shipped from Africa to America over four centuries.

This video is called Amistad 28 Movie CLIP The Middle Passage 1997 HD.

Marcus Rediker’s book – subtitled An Atlantic Odyssey Of Slavery And Freedom – does much more than retell the momentous events of the first successful slave revolt in 1839.

When a small group of multi-ethnic Africans, already shipped from the slave “factories” of Sierra Leone to Havana’s concentration camp barracoons and now shipped onward aboard the Amistad – ironically Spanish for friendship – to the hell of Cuba’s sugar plantations, escaped their chains and seized the ship, killing the captain and some others of the crew, they energised the anti-slavery movements in US and Britain.

Picked up by the US navy and interned in New Haven, Connecticut, the Mendi people – self-named after the main tribal group in their homeland – spent three years anxiously waiting for the US courts to decide their fate – doomed chattels to be returned to the slave owners or free men with the opportunity to return to Africa.

During that time, under the leadership of the charismatic Joseph Cinque and with the help of abolitionists, they educated and organised themselves playing a major part in the popular cultural explosion that spawned massive interest through not only the trials but the concomitant journalistic and artistic coverage, including theatrical reproductions of the rebellion.

In the process the public at large were themselves educated into recognising slavery with a human face not as a soulless economic problem.

This recognition resulted in the US legal system, never the most progressive entity, freeing the Mendi people in 1841 to return to Africa in triumph – a significant victory for them and for the antislavery movement.

Essentially, however, the author establishes that the survival of the group through both the vicissitudes of their transportation and subsequent imprisonment was largely owing to having come from societies “in which the common good of the group almost always came before individual preference.”

This unity was ironically welded by the efforts to Christianise the Africans into “new people” and through necessarily learning English “a language community became a political community.”

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Dutch godwit flies to Sierra Leone

This black-tailed godwit video says about itself:

Limosa limosa displaying and mating….

Eemnes, Holland 08-04-2012.

Translated from Dutch ornithologists Gerrit Gerritsen and Theunis Piersma:

Dutch godwit Nouakchott improves distance record

Post published by BirdLife Netherlands on July 31, 2013

Nouakchott is a black-tailed godwit with a transmitters of the ‘Kening fan’ e Greide’ project. This female godwit from Egmondermeer (North Holland) was recorded on July 27, 2013 in Sierra Leone, a record distance of 5400 kilometers from her nesting area.

After successful breeding and adding weight for migration in North Holland and a stopover in Coto Doñana (Spain), Nouakchott left on July 14, 2013 from southern Spain. On 15 July she was recorded over the southern border of Morocco. Like many other godwits, after passing the Sahara, she made a stopover in the wetlands of northern Senegal. She stayed there for about three days and was recorded on 23 July above Nouakchott, the Mauritanian capital, to which she owes her name. On July 27, she landed in the Yawri Bay, on the west coast of Sierra Leone. The Yawri Bay is part of the Ramsar site “Sierra Leone River Estuary”. This wetland is almost 300,000 acres and is of international importance for eight species: Kentish plover, ringed plover, sanderling, curlew, whimbrel, greenshank, redshank and western reef heron. It is also an important area for terns, including the rare lesser crested tern.

Few reports from Sierra Leone

It is rare for godwits breeding in the Netherlands to go so far south. Pieter Coehoorn of the Vogeltrekstation reports that there are only four ring reports from Sierra Leone. Nouakchott is the fifth and the southernmost. This is a new distance record for a godwit breeding in the Netherlands. She feeds currently on the mud flats at the mouth of the Bumpe river, a distance of 5400 km from her nesting place in the Egmondermeer.

Caught in Extremadura

In the first week of February 2013, Nouakchott was, like the other fourteen godwits called after capital cities along their migration route, fitted with a satellite transmitter near Santa Amalia in the Spanish Extremadura by researchers from the Universities of Groningen and Extremadura and the Alaska Science Center.

Follow the adventures of Nouakchott and other godwits with transmitters on

Sign the petition to protect the habitat of grassland birds

African children’s bird drawings

Bee-eater, drawn by Kadison Augustine Mada Duwai, Conservation Society of Sierra Leone, first prize in 13-16 years of age category

From BirdLife:

Winners of “My Spring” Drawing competition in Africa announced

Fri, Dec 21, 2012

Winners of “My Spring” Drawing competition in Africa announced

BirdLife International … is proud to announce the winners of the 2012 maiden edition of the Spring Alive drawing competition for children in Africa.

In all, nine (9) winners have been selected from a total of about 141 entries received after the close of a two and half months long competition on the 15th of November, 2012. The highly creative and impressive entries were received from school children aged 16 years and below in six African countries namely: Botswana, Sierra Leone, Malawi, Nigeria, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

The jury for the competition … were very pleased and highly elated to receive such a high number of creative and beautiful artistic paintings from school children in Africa. According to Julie Rogers … “The pictures are absolutely beautiful, and we’re honoured to be able to judge this competition. It’s so difficult to choose just one from each category! The effort and time put into drawing these wonderful pictures was inspiring”.

Evidently, to create a more fair and balanced platform for all entrants and as well increase the chances of winning, the entries were categorized into three different age brackets (6-9 years, 10-12year & 13-16years) and subsequently three winners (First, Second & Third) selected from each category by the competent jury.

The final outcome as determined by the jury is presented below:

Ages 6-9 years
First: Olamide Ajayi, Nigeria Conservation Foundation
Second: Jennifer Tshukudu, Birdlife Botswana
Third: Joshua Ajayi, Nigeria Conservation Foundation

Ages 10-12 years
First: Okere Tochukwu, Nigeria Conservation Foundation
Second: Ahimbsibwe Mary, Nature Uganda
Third: Nyakeh Benson, Conservation Society of Sierra Leone

Ages 13-16 years

First: Kadison Augustine Mada Duwai, Conservation Society of Sierra Leone
Second: Chibueze Agube, Nigeria Conservation Foundation
Third : Abdul Rahman, Conservation Society of Sierra Leone

As announced earlier, the first place winners in each category will receive a high quality digital camera whilst the second and third place positions will receive some consolations prizes. However all participants in the 2012 Africa edition of the competition will also receive Spring Alive branded stickers and bracelets from the BirdLife International Secretariat.

The Spring Alive Team congratulates the winners and thanks warmly all participants for their beautiful paintings!

Pictures are here (scroll down).

Also from BirdLife:

Great loss-The late Georges Henry Oueda

Fri, Dec 21, 2012

It is with deep regret that we received the very sad news that Georges Henry Oueda, Director of Conservation of NATURAMA (BirdLife in Burkina Faso) passed away.

Aged just 48, Georges was the single most knowledgeable expert in ornithology in his country. He was the Naturama IBA Coordinator and was known to many across the international bird conservation community. His contribution to nature conservation in Burkina Faso cannot be overestimated.

Throughout his tour of duty at Naturama, he was dedicated and committed to making a difference for both biodiversity and people. Georges was the driving force behind setting up and training local conservation groups at site like Oursi-Darkoye, Lake Higa and Sourou valley, now known as shining examples of community-based conservation. The recent designation of twelve wetlands in Burkina as Ramsar sites have largely been achieved by Georges’ coordination and monitoring training.

He had so many plans to continue and expand his work. His passing leaves a large gap, mostly of course in his family, and also in NATURAMA and the BirdLife Partnership as a whole.

George was an avid birder, a man of the people, an asset to Naturama and the Partnership. He fought a good fight and we will truly miss him. May His Dear Soul Rest in Peace

Those who wish to extend their condolences may use the general NATURAMA address:

African fishermen drive away multinational poachers

This video says about itself:

Pirate Fishing Exposed – The Fight against Illegal Fishing in West Africa and the EU

from Environmental Justice Foundation

Sierra Leone, a small coastal state in West Africa, has seen a dramatic drop in Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) or ‘pirate’ fishing following a groundbreaking investigation by UK‐based NGO Environmental Justice Foundation.

During the dramatic two-­‐year investigation set out in the new report Exposing Pirate Fishing, EJF documented rampant illegal fishing in Sierra Leone by vessels exporting fish to the EU.

EJF has been working in partnership with local fishermen in Sierra Leone since the beginning of 2010 to document and report illegal fishing.

The groundbreaking project based near the rich fishing grounds of Sherbro Island in the south of the country, involves local fishermen calling an EJF coordinator on a mobile phone when they witness trawlers fishing illegally. A speedboat boat is then deployed so that photo, video and GPS evidence of the boats’ illegal activities can be gathered.

Read EJF’s new report about illegal pirate fishing, find out more on

and Sign out to our petition!

See article on this in British The Guardian daily here.

Illegal fishing off West Africa costing local states $billions: here.

How vital fish stocks in Africa are being stolen from human mouths to feed pigs and chickens on Western factory farms: here.

Protecting the white-necked picathartes in Africa

This is a White-necked Picathartes video.

From BirdLife:

Communities unite to protect White-necked Picathartes


A survey of the Western Area Peninsula Forest (WAPF) in Sierra Leone has discovered two new breeding colonies of the Vulnerable White-necked Picathartes Picathartes gymnocephalus, in addition to the 16 sites already known. …

White-necked Picathartes is a flagship for bird and habitat conservation in Africa. Its extant population is restricted to the fragmented Upper Guinea forest in Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with historical records from Ghana – though none since the 1960s.

Liberia urged Firestone bosses to comply with the laws of the land today after it emerged that a rubber factory owned by the US corporation is pumping waste products into a key water source outside Monrovia: here.

Liberia and Sierra Leone move to designate Gola Rainforest as National Park: here. And here.

Fighting Firestone in Liberia: here.

Gola rainforest in Sierra Leone: birds and mammals

This is a white-necked picathartes video.

From BirdLife:

More than 270 bird species, including 14 globally threatened are found at Gola.

They include Rufous Fishing-owl Scotopelia ussheri, Gola Malimbe Malimbus ballmanni (both Endangered), and the Green-tailed Bristlebill Bleda eximius and White-necked Picathartes Picathartes gymnocephalus (both Vulnerable), the latter a charismatic species recognised as a symbol of African conservation.

Gola is also important for threatened mammals including pygmy hippopotamus, forest elephant and zebra duiker.

Update on Gola, June 2013: here.

Are we finally almost there? The Gola Forest National Park gazettement in Liberia: an update: here.

The Conservation Society of Sierra Leone (CSSL) through the support of the Wildlife Clubs of Africa project has established 7 new Nature Clubs and rejuvenated 10 old Clubs in the Western and Eastern Provinces of the country respectively. This laudable initiative is in line with CSSL’s long term goal of expanding conservation and environmental education activities to cover many more pupils and students through school Nature Club establishment: here.

The Western Area National Park is a forest reserve in Sierra Leone that still holds one of the last strongholds of pristine forest in the country and represents a significant portion of the remaining forest cover in the Guinean Forests of West Africa Hotspot. The park is rich in diverse species, with a range of hills and steep mountains that border the coastline of the Atlantic Ocean: here.