Migrant Domestic Workers in UAE Treated Like ‘Animals’
Posted by addisethiopia on October 23, 2014
“Think of working in the Middle East as working in the ‘Middle Ages.’ That will give you a good idea of how you’ll be treated. The oil rich Arab states are a breeding ground of the most decadent, narcissistic, misogynistic, abusive and brutal miserable excuses for human beings alive today.”
‘The UAE should reform its kafala system so domestic workers can change employers without their consent and without losing valid immigration status,’ says Human Rights Watch
Sexual violence, isolation and forced confinement, unpaid wages, long working hours with limited food, and regular beating are just some of the conditions migrant domestic workers in oil-rich United Arab Emirates (UAE) endure in the hands of their employers.
This “seemingly entrenched pattern” of abuses was detailed in a 79-page report by New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) released Thursday, October 23, urging the UAE government to enact reforms to put an end to it.
“Many said their employers had treated them like animals or as if they were dirty and physical contact with them would be contaminating,” the report said.
Quezon City resident Marelie Brua returned home to the Philippines after suffering maltreatment and a meager 800-dirham ($217 or P9,712) monthly pay under the employ of an Arab family.
A mere animal “bought” at a price is how domestic workers to the UAE are regarded, Brua shared in an HRW clip.
“He [the sponsor] slapped me and banged my head on the wall, then spit on me. He beat me with a cable on my back and put a knife to my face.” – Indonesian domestic worker
A total of 99 UAE-based helpers from November to December 2013 who came all the way from the Philippines, Indonesia, Uganda, and other labor-sending countries were interviewed by HRW staff and reported even worse experiences of exploitation.
One of those interviewed, 22-year-old Indonesian Arti L.* shared: “He [the sponsor] slapped me and banged my head on the wall, then spit on me. He beat me with a cable on my back and put a knife to my face.”
Of the 99, at least 22 complained of physical violence and 6 of sexual assault/harassment.
Arti L.*, the 22-year-old Indonesian beaten and slapped by her boss, was also raped. “I ran away with blood on my panties. I was bleeding badly,” she told HRW.
Most of them reported having to work long hours with low wages, and have experienced psychological and verbal abuse.
The women shared how they were verbally abused by their employers.
Farah S.* from Indonesia said not once was she addressed by her name, while Sadiyah A.* from the Philippines said she was always called an idiot in public.
Filipina Holly C*, 26, quoted her former employer as saying: “If you do anything wrong I will kill you and cut you up into pieces and put you into the desert and no one will know.”
The HRW brought the matter to the UAE authorities, but said it received no response.
At the heart of the report is a controversial system that unduly limits migrant workers’ rights and cripples their ability to redress their grievances.
Under the kafala sponsorship system, a migrant worker’s visa status is dependent on his or her employer. The threat of deportation looms and is dependent on his or her boss.
The system of having employer-sponsors as a prerequisite for migrant workers to stay in UAE and acquire a work permit enables employers to exploit them and gain “inordinate control” over them, the HRW report explained.
“The relationship between domestic worker and employer is mistakenly perceived as status-based, with a superior master commanding an inferior servant, rather than a contractual arrangement between parties with mutual rights and obligations,” it read.
Azfar Khan, a senior migration specialist for the International Labor Organization (ILO), said the system has been regarded as “slave-like.”
It is common practice among the employers of those interviewed by HRW to confiscate passports of their helpers. This prevents workers from running away from an abusive employer.
“The UAE should reform its kafala system so domestic workers can change employers without their consent and without losing valid immigration status,” the HRW urged.
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