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Abu Dhabi: Kuwait’s Court of Appeal has sentenced a Kuwaiti colonel working in the Ministry of Interior and seven Egyptians to three years in prison, after they were found guilty of human trafficking, local media reported.

The court also ordered the Egyptians be deported after serving their term, in one of the human trafficking cases that surfaced during the coronavirus crisis.

Prosecutors charged the defendants with committing the crime of trafficking in persons, by using lies and deception, promising a better life and opportunities to make money in a company run by the colonel (the director of the company).

The manager confiscated their passports, after they were lured for lucrative jobs in Kuwait in various professions in return for a monthly salary of 150 dinars (Dh1,800), and other benefits.

“But the victims were exploited, faced forced labour conditions in which their passports and wages were withheld, their movement restricted and they faces physical abuse. They eventually found that they had been lured to Kuwait with promises of non-existent work opportunities, a crime committed in both Egypt and Kuwait,” according to court records.

The Kuwait government has increased law enforcement efforts. The 2013 anti-trafficking law criminalised sex and labour trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to 15 years’ imprisonment for offences involving an adult male victim and up to life imprisonment for those involving an adult female or child victim. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regard to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.

The Public Authority for Manpower transferred about 400 files of companies to the Public Prosecution due their involvement in human trafficking, besides this 3,000 different complaints, most of them were related to non-payment of salaries to employees.

The Deputy Director General for Manpower Protection, Dr. Mubarak Al Azmi stated that “during the period of the coronavirus pandemic, we formed crisis teams and emergency teams in addition to the existing inspection teams to monitor the conditions of expatriate workers. During this period, we received 3,000 complaints from which 2,300 were provided assistance. Besides, there were urgent matters which included workers who wanted to return to their homeland, with the cooperation of DGCA and Ministry of Interior 800 workers were able to go back to their countries. Plus there were deportation of violators”

In April 2019, the Constitutional Court annulled an article from the 2013 anti-trafficking law that required judges to issue a verdict in trafficking cases, arguing the stipulation undermined judicial independence and precluded judges from exercising discretion. As a result, judges retained broad discretion to defer and delay issuance of verdicts in trafficking cases, as they did in other cases.