Monday, September 19, 2005

Gulf News draws attention to the fate of foreign housemaids

It is good that a major UAE paper draws attention to the inhumane treatment many housemaids receive from some recruiting agencies. Newspapers play a necessary role in shining light on problems that society needs to address. The quote below points to another factor: many of those who employ housemaids from recruiting agencies are well aware what goes on -- and tolerate it.

A Gulf News reporter visited four recruitment agencies in Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman, posing as a potential employer. In one agency about 25 housemaids of different nationalities were crowded into a small room above the office. They crouched silently on the floor. “Take one,” the woman at the agency said.

Gulf News saw a lady at one agency slap one of the housemaids who had been returned by a dissatisfied client. The maid had neither done nor said anything before she was slapped in the face.
. . .
Maria, another housemaid at another agency in Sharjah, said she and 20 other housemaids were kept in a small attic above the agency. A woman who runs a labour recruitment agency in Sharjah told Gulf News she kept the housemaids in an attic at the agency while they were awaiting deportation or changes in their visas.
. . .
Asked by Gulf News about complaints from housemaids that agencies keep them in tiny attics, beat them and give them very little to eat before delivering them to their sponsor, an official from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs said he was aware of what was happening. “Yes, hundreds of housemaids are mistreated by the agencies, and we know that,” he said. “But we can’t inspect them and go inside to find out what is going on. Even the Interior Ministry cannot do that. The agencies are taking advantage of this.”
. . .
As for the Interior Ministry, he said its Immigration and Naturalisation Department issued visas for the housemaids. The official said: “Everything to do with these agencies should be placed under one ministry, and we have suggested that it should be the Interior Ministry.

“We want to explain this problem to the media. These agencies mistreat people and break the law because they are not under full control of anybody,” he said.
Note that employment of housemaids is extensive. Quoting the Gulf News article:
The number of foreign housemaids in the UAE is estimated at 300,000. They represent 20 per cent of the workforce. However, this number is expected to rise to 800,000 by 2010, according to figures released by Dubai Municipality two years ago.


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