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Abstract

This paper is a response to R. Jureidini's “Trafficking and contract migrant workers in the Middle East”, published in International Migration. Jureidini discusses the difficulty of establishing whether migrant domestic workers are victims of trafficking. He discusses the questions of (i) whether trafficking can be determined ex post or whether it must also be ex ante, and (ii) whether there must be a proven intent to engage in trafficking. On the basis of data concerning domestic workers in Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, I argue that they often are victims of trafficking. In these two countries, forced confinement and exploitation do not concern individual cases, but standard labour conditions. Agents in the countries of origin regularly misinform or even deceive domestic workers, while agents in the countries of destination actively stimulate confinement and exploitation. Furthermore, the lack of prosecution of traffickers is not caused by legal obscurities, but by societal issues. The paper concludes with some policy suggestions to better address the issue of trafficking.