MWPS Cases

Alice's story

Published on October 22, 2012

Tragically, Human Trafficking is a global reality in the 21st century. The story of Alice (not her real name) is a classic example of labour trafficking involving deception, exploitation and abuse in both her own country and here in Bahrain.

A qualified nurse, Alice was ‘recruited’ in Ghana  by an unofficial agent to work in Bahrain as a nurse, so she thought, but shortly after her arrival in Bahrain she was shocked and dismayed to be sent by her manpower agency not to a hospital, but to a private house. Alice inadvertently signed a contract given to her by the agent in Arabic, a language which she could neither read nor write, which engaged her to work as a live-in domestic worker (housemaid) and not as a nurse.

In view of Alice’s distress, the householder took her back to the agent after three days. The agent then proceeded to punish and intimidate her with slaps, threats and insults for complaining. Alice has diarised her experiences and quoted him as threatening to kill her and saying that ‘Bahrain is my country. No one can do anything.’ She was so afraid of the consequences that she reluctantly agreed to work in two other households as a temporary domestic worker but when she could stand it no  longer she returned back to the agency.  There she was forced to sleep without a mattress on the kitchen floor with two other women. Her legs became painful and swollen from sitting in the same cramped space for long periods and after three weeks, not knowing what other options she had, Alice ran away from the agency.

For what she thought was the chance of a better salary, Alice had paid the equivalent of BD600 to the recruiter in Ghana and, although she had worked for 3 weeks in three different households, she was only paid a total of BD20 which she used to buy food whilst she was confined at the agency – food which the agent should have provided. Her losses and that of her family were further increased to include the airline ticket home which her father paid for. The financial loss and the psychological distress caused by such experiences such as these which are only too common can only be imagined.

This case highlights the importance of the need for contracts to be translated into a language which the employee understands, for manpower agents in labour-receiving countries to use only registered recruitment agencies in the labour-sending countries, for manpower agencies to be adequately and regularly inspected for workplace violations and for more cases of labour trafficking to be prosecuted.

Fortunately, MWPS was able to provide Alice with a safe house while she was waiting to be repatriated. MWPS also enabled her to report her case to the Ministry of Labour and the Trafficking in Persons Unit at CID. But the two other women with whom Alice was incarcerated at the agency, also Ghanaian, suffered similar deceptions we believe and we understand are still here. They had come to Bahrain expecting to work in their chosen careers – not as domestic workers. These deceptions continue with impunity.