Stolen Livelihoods: Slavery Entrenched by Law, Depriving Migrant Workers of their Wages in The Gulf

Country/area: Bahrain

Organisation: Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism, BBC Arabic, Daraj

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 17/12/2021

Credit: Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA), Sara Alsammak


  • Hana Yaqoob Buhijji 
  • DOB :1/1/1963
  • Bahraini freelance Writer/Journalist.
  • Migrant workers’ rights activist. Published several investigative reports about migrant workers in Bahrain and the Gulf. Latest:” Stolen livelihoods in GCC
  • Recipient of Arij & NED Fellowship January 2021- August 2021.
  • Winner of Lorenzo Natali Prize (2011) for outstanding journalistic work covering issues of development, human rights and democracy/2nd place in the Arab World and the Middle East category for ”Bahrain’s Third Millennium Slavery
  • Covered economic and political issues in local newspapers between 1991 and 2007/ worked as correspondent for regional media (for ex. Asharq al-Awsat 1993-2004).
  • Volunteering with Migrant Workers Protection Society (MWPS) since 2010.
  • Volunteering mentor with Marie Colvin Journalist Network.
  • Master’s Degree in Economics, Colorado State University, USA.

Project description:

This inviestigative report digs deep and invistigate in a rampant phenomenon of non-payment of wages to migrant workers in the Gulf countries, or what workers and human rights organizations termed “wage theft”. It examines in depth the most vulnerable groups of workers, causes of problem, the laws that regualate the relationship between employers, employee and the state. it points to sponsorship system as the main cause and the practices it creates which exacerbate the situation. It also the revies the difficulties that prevent the victims of this practice from accessing justice. The narrative is supported by statictics, laws and graphics

Impact reached:

The report is the first in the Arabic media that invistagate, in depth,  the “wage theft” in the 6 Gulf countries. It provides a panoramic view of the issue that millions of law- income migrant workers in these countries suffer from, as the reports mentions that migrant workers in GCC constitute 11% of total migrant workers worldwide  It is a document that could help researchers and decision makers to better understand the phenomenon and address it. It could also be part of the international human and workers’ rights advocacy that emerged during the past 2 years in the wake of the outbreak of covide 19, which greatly affected the livelihood of millions of migrant workers globally.

Techniques/technologies used:

To produce this report the following was used:

– WordPress

– Adobe XD

– Adobe Illustrator

– Adobie  Photoshop

What was the hardest part of this project?

The hardest part is the lack of data that shows the size of the issue. There is no date available about cases of nonpayment, complaints, lawsuits. luckily, I got the confidential document “contractual Relationship Improvement Initiative” which was prepared by Saudi Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development which was written in 2020, within the framework of Vision 2030 initiatives while KSA was preparing to sign Protection of Wages Convention, 1949 (No. 95). The real statistics included in the document reflects the size of the issue as workforce in Saudi Arabia constitutes about 50.2% of the total workforce in GCC, and Saudi Arabia alone hosts 47.3% of the total number of migrant workers in those countries.

Other difficulty faced, was interviewing government officials in the Ministries and labour Authorities, to have them comment on the issue. This issue is highly politicized as violations of workers’ rights negatively affect the reputation of the countries and could be deprived of global economic and political opportunities. Local media as an open source is hardly found reliable as freedom of speech is limited.

also it was difficult to get victims talk as they fear employes’ retaliation

What can others learn from this project?

1- The importance of the issue that affects lives of millions of workers

2-during working on this project, many opportunities to investigate which would shed light on issues touch lives of millions. and could draw attention of decision makers 

Project links: