Abuse of foreign maids in Emirates deplored

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Foreign maids from impoverished countries endure physical, sexual and emotional abuse in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), trapped by a system that denies them protection, an international rights group said on Thursday.

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Human Rights Watch called on the UAE to reform a restrictive visa system and pass a labor law for domestic workers to stop the abuses.

“We already bought you. You don’t have the right to complain,” Filipina Marelie Brua said in a video interview with HRW, recounting her former employer’s words.

Brua said she was paid 800 dirhams ($218) per month instead of 1,000 dirhams ($272) as stated in her contract.

“As I pretended to clean the playroom, I was punching the floor, crying. Is this all I get for taking a chance here? I kept on blaming myself,” she said.

At 800 dirhams, Brua’s pay is roughly equivalent to the Philippines’ minimum wage.

Brua is one of 99 domestic workers who shared her harrowing experiences for a multimedia HRW report on the abuse, released in Manila.

The UAE hosts 146,000 female maids mostly from the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Ethiopia, according to HRW.

The rights group said the UAE must reform its visa system to allow maids to transfer employers without penalty.

Under the current system, domestic workers face being banned from future employment if they try to switch jobs.

Employers act as the maids’ visa “sponsors” and this leaves them “exposed to abuse,” according to HRW.

Aside from passing labor legislation for maids, the UAE must cap maids’ work hours and enforce a regulation granting them one day off per week, as well as mandating eight hours of rest in any 24-hour period, it said.

Maids are not covered by existing UAE labor law and were also excluded from recent visa reforms, HRW said.

HRW also said countries sending workers to the UAE must strengthen their embassy staff there, inform their nationals of their rights and coordinate more closely with the UAE government on abuse cases.

From the Philippines, many maids get mired in debt to process work papers even before they head abroad and spend years paying these off before they can offer help their families back home.

Another Filipina maid featured in HRW’s report, Jeany Alfiler, had her left forearm covered with a dark scar.

She said her former employer’s mother pressed on it with a flat iron after she refused to help her dry dates under the sun.

“I screamed in pain,” she said in a video interview.

Neither UAE nor Philippine officials were immediately able to respond to the abuse claims.

AFP

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2 Comments

  1. This problem has been going on for some time and nothing was done about it. I have my hats off to those pinays who have the courage and self respect to tell the truth of what was done to them, physical, verbal, and sexual abuse. The rest who were abused but kept quiet are the bigger number of our female workers in the middle east. Some chose to absorb the culture and be proud of it, some just put it to god’s will if that is what their god want them to be, and some marry muslim men. This is not surprising because pinays are very submissive, they tend to bow down to their husbands, hence foreigners in general like those women whom they can control and who will do everything for them, in short, have a “slave”.. didn’t pres Aquino at one point was happy when the middle east put an end to the hold on the export of pinay housekeepers? He was even in the article of Mon Tulfo saying that this is not something we should be proud of. Our country can do better than this, make contracts for our overseas workers clear and defined, and overall, should protect them in such a way that the embassy can pull them out anytime there is a problem. We just cannot kiss ass to people like this.

  2. this what happens when our main export are OFWs versus developing local industries and agribusiness. our helpless citizens are being exploited in other countries being us a 3rd world country. Only when our economy improves and poverty reduced to its lowest and employment rises will OFWs be needed to prop up our GDP. Otherwise we will remain and treated as slaves all over.