Migrant Workers Suffer Exploitation, Abuse in Middle East, North Africa: Report

Lebanon - IOM and the Walk Free Foundation (WFF) have called on governments to take more concrete action to protect migrant workers amid worsening conditions in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

The WFF and IOM report ‘The Other Migrant Crisis: Protecting migrant workers against exploitation in the Middle East and North Africa’ was launched at an IOM-facilitated regional dialogue in Beirut: “Bringing Innovation Forward: Combating Trafficking in Persons and Exploitation of Migrant Workers in MENA.” 

The meeting was organized as part of IOM’s project on Action to Protect and Assist Vulnerable and Exploited Migrant Workers in Middle East and North Africa (PAVE), funded by the European Union and co-funded by the Italian Ministry of Interior.

The report exposes the conditions faced by migrant workers who are trafficked and exploited across MENA. The data compiled from interviews with 162 victims reveals alarming trends: 100 per cent of workers had their passports withheld, 87 per cent were confined to their workplace; 76 per cent had wages withheld; 73 per cent suffered psychological abuse; and 61 per cent endured physical abuse.

Ongoing armed conflicts and economic instability across MENA create the perfect climate for modern slavery. Sectarian violence, the rise of extremism and record displacement of populations is heavily impacting the region, the report notes.

This unprecedented and complex humanitarian emergency can hide the critical needs of the burgeoning migrant workforce. Emerging reports of migrant workers trapped in conflict zones, being used as human shields and captured by armed groups further heightens the need for governments in the region to act. In addition, supply of and demand for cheap migrant labour shows no signs of diminishing.

IOM and WFF are calling on governments to: introduce legal reforms to ensure the most vulnerable agricultural and domestic workers are covered by basic labour law protection; bring in more consistent application and enforcement of labour protection laws; urgently address the withholding passports of migrant employees; support victims to ensure they are not further traumatized by arrest and detention; and hold employers and recruiters to account for their role in exploitation.  

Fiona David, Executive Director of Research at the Walk Free Foundation said, “This research comes at a crucial time. Recognizing the vulnerability of migrants to human trafficking must be at the forefront of government and IOs response to the conflict. This research can serve as a tool for governments and civil society groups, including the general public, to educate, lobby and develop policies for better migrant worker protection.”

Fawzi Al-Zioud, IOM Chief of Mission in Lebanon said, “We must ensure that human trafficking is given the highest priority so that criminals cannot be allowed to further exploit the vulnerable in what is already a highly complex situation.”

To download the report please go to:

For more information please contact Fitriana Nur at IOM Lebanon. Tel. +961 76620648, Email: