Filipina domestic workers in Qatar report abuse, exploitation – AI
MANILA, Philippines — Filipino domestic workers were among those who reported experiencing abuse and exploitation in Qatar despite government reforms aimed at improving their working conditions, an official of the Amnesty International (AI) Philippines said Tuesday.
AI recently released a report revealing how migrant domestic workers in Qatar have been extremely overworked and subjected to abusive and degrading treatment.
The organization spoke to 105 women who had been employed as live-in domestic workers in Qatar for the report – some of whom said they had been victims of serious crimes.
Wilnor Papa, Human Rights Officer of AI Philippines, said Filipino domestic workers are among those who were interviewed for the report, but he did not give a number as to how many Filipinos were interviewed.
“Definitely, may mga Filipinas na na-interview [sa report]. Mas willing magsalita ‘yung mga Pilipino, aside sa mas organized ‘yung mga Filipino domestic workers. Madali silang makausap, madali silang mahanap at saka marami sa kanila na willing mag-share ng stories nila,” Papa told INQUIRER.net in a phone interview.
(Definitely, there were Filipinas interviewed in the report. They are more willing to talk about their situation aside from that Filipino domestic workers are more organized. They can easily be talked to and be found.)
According to the AI report, majority or 90 of the 105 women interviewed disclosed they regularly worked more than 14 hours a day; 89 said they regularly worked seven days a week; while 87 confessed they had their passports confiscated by their employers.
Half of the women worked more than 18 hours per day, and most had never had a single day off at all, the AI report likewise bared.
The AI report also disclosed that some of the domestic workers in Qatar are not being paid properly while 40 women described being insulted, slapped, or spat at.
This is despite Qatar’s Domestic Workers Law, which stipulated limits on working hours, mandatory daily breaks, a weekly day off, and paid holidays, AI noted.
“The introduction of the 2017 Domestic Workers Law was a step forward for labor rights protection in Qatar. Sadly, the accounts of the women we spoke to make it clear that these reforms have not been properly implemented or enforced,” said Steve Cockburn, AI’s Head of Economic and Social Justice.
“Domestic workers told us they were working an average of 16 hours a day, every day of the week, far more than the law allows. Almost all had their passport confiscated by their employers, and others described not getting their salaries and being subjected to vicious insults and assaults. The overall picture is of a system that continues to allow employers to treat domestic workers not as human beings but as possessions,” he added.
AI said there are around 173,000 migrant domestic workers in Qatar.
Among the common complaints of Filipino migrant workers in Qatar is the unfair pay of employers for their rendered service, Papa said.
“Maliit ang sweldo o hindi tama ‘yung pinapa-sweldo contrary to what they signed on. Usually na natatanggap nila is definitely below par doon sa napag-usapan,” he said.
(They have small pay or it is lower than what they signed upon.)
“‘Yung iba naman hindi nakakasweldo agad o hindi pinapasweldo nang matagal,” Papa added.
(Some get their wages delayed.)
According to the AI report, long working hours with no proper rest emerged as one of the most common forms of abuse experienced by migrant domestic workers in Qatar.
AI said the domestic workers worked 16 hours per day on average, usually without a day off, amounting to 112 hours per week – without being paid any overtime.
Meanwhile, at least 23 women interviewed in the report said they were not given enough food and felt hungry during their employment in Qatar.
AI said some women interviewed also described sleeping in cramped rooms, in some cases on the floor or without air conditioning.
The organization likewise talked to 40 women who said they had suffered verbal and physical abuse. Often this involved degrading treatment, shouting, and insults.
Fifteen women said they faced physical abuse at the hands of their employers or family members, including spitting, beating, kicking, punching, and hair-pulling, according to the report.
Further, it said that five women revealed they had been sexually abused by their employers or visiting relatives.
The sexual abuse ranged from harassment to fondling and rape. Most women felt they could not complain to the police for fear of retaliation by their employers, AI said.
Papa said Filipino domestic workers in Qatar are not exempted from such abuse.
“Aside from the extensive hours ng trabaho, makikita mo ‘yung physical and sexual abuse. Hindi malayo na may mga Filipinas na nakakaranas nito,” he said.
(Aside from the extensive hours of work, you will see the physical and sexual abuse. It is not impossible that there are Filipinas who experience this kind of abuse.)
“Hindi nae-exempt ang mga Pilipina sa sexual abuse,” he added.
(Filipinas are not exempted from sexual abuse.)
For AI, Qatar has failed to hold abusive employers to account, “which means there is little to deter future abuses.”
Practices such as passport confiscation and unpaid wages, which indicate forced labor, are not being automatically investigated, and rarely face consequences even when they refuse to hand passports over or pay dues.
“None of the women Amnesty spoke to has seen their abuser held to account for their actions. If Qatar wants to protect domestic workers from exploitation, it needs to send a strong message to employers that labor abuses are not tolerated,” Cockburn said.
AI said more than half the women interviewed reported delayed or unpaid wages, but the very few who felt able to submit claims to the Committees found the process slow and stressful.
“Domestic workers deserve a say in the laws and policies that affect their lives. The women we spoke to were resilient and independent – they had left their homes and traveled halfway across the world. Instead of being isolated and silenced, these women should be given a voice so they can advocate for their rights,” Cockburn said.
“We are calling on the Qatari authorities to take concrete steps to ensure full implementation of the law, establish strict inspection mechanisms, and take serious actions against abusive employers. Despite efforts to reform labor laws, Qatar is still failing the most vulnerable women in the country,” he added.
As for Filipino domestic workers, Papa said the Philippine government should be more active and serious in dealing with reports of abuse.
“Parang ang concern lang ng Pilipinas ay magpadala ng workers. Once maipadala na ‘yung workers, wala na. ‘Yung mga bilateral agreements naman walang problema in paper. In the implementation, doon tayo nagkakaproblema,” he said.
(It seems like the only concern of the Philippine government is to send workers abroad. AFter that, nothing. On paper, bilateral agreements have no problem. The problem happens in the implementation of the bilateral agreement.)
“Hindi seryoso ang ating bansa na to walk the talk para protektahan ‘yung ating mga bagong bayani. ‘Yun sana, seryosohin ng ating gobyerno kung ano ‘yung nasa bilateral agreement,” Papa said.
(The country is not serious in its efforts to walk the talk to protect our new heroes. I hope our government will take seriously what’s in the bilateral agreement.)
“Ang presence nila [embassies and consulates] sa ibang bansa ay hindi para protektahan ‘yung interes noong country pero para protektahan yung interest ng mga Filipino workers doon sa bansang iyon,” he further said.
(The presence of embassies and consulates in other countries is not not to protect the interest of the country they’re in but to protect the interest and rights of Filipino workers in that country.)
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.