Absence of labor laws, sponsorship system in UAE left domestics open to abuse–report
MANILA, Philippines – The absence of labor law protections and a sponsorship system that “chains domestic workers to their employers” have resulted in “overworked, underpaid, and abused” workers at the United Arab Emirates (UAE), according to a report released Thursday.
“The UAE’s sponsorship system chains domestic workers to their employers and then leaves them isolated and at risk of abuse behind the closed doors of private homes,” Rothna Begum, Middle East women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, said during the launch of the report.
“With no labor law protections for domestic workers, employers can, and many do, overwork, underpay, and abuse these women,” she said.
The 79-page report, entitled “‘I Already Bought You’: Abuse and Exploitation of Female Migrant Domestic Workers in the United Arab Emirates,” was based on interviews from 99 female domestic workers in the UAE, as well as recruitment agencies, lawyers, and others.
Interviewed domestic workers told HRW about the abuses they experienced such as not being paid, not having rest periods or time off, being confined in the employer’s homes, and being given excessive workloads, with working days of up to 21 hours.
“They described being deprived of food and reported psychological, physical, and sexual abuse. Many said their employers treated them like animals, or as if they were dirty and physical contact with them would be contaminating. In some cases the abuses amounted to forced labor or trafficking,” the Begum said.
Recruitment agencies also were not able to help the domestic helpers, some had even abused the migrant workers further by making them work for new families against their will, confined them to their agency residence and deprived them of food, or beat them when they sought help, the report said.
“Many domestic workers who leave abusive employers face a stone wall,” Begum said. “They can be prosecuted for running away, while their abusers have little to fear.”
There are at least 146,000 female migrant domestic workers in the UAE coming from countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Ethiopia.
According to records from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), Filipino domestic helpers deployed worldwide each year have continuously increased from 71,500 in 2009 to 164,400 in 2013.
UAE has continued to be the second most popular destination for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) with 196,800 deployed (new hires and rehires) in 2009 to 261,000 in 2013.
December 2012 records of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) show that there are 931,500 Filipinos in UAE, a large majority, around 722,000, are temporary migrant workers.
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