The abusive conditions of migrant domestic workers represent one of the most challenging issues of the international agenda. A recent report of the Human Rights Watch has outlined the alarming situation of migrant domestic workers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), compelled to face severe abuses by employers.
Recently, the UAE authorities have modified the standard domestic worker labour contract establishing a weekly day off and 8 hours of rest in any 24-hour period.
However, the revisited contract does not address other important issues as limits on working hours. Additionally, this contract represents a weaker instrument than labour law protections for other workers that are enforceable by judicial authorities.
Data show that the UAE authorities have reformed some aspects of the kafala system in order to face difficulties in recent years, but these changes do not achieve concrete results for domestic workers.
Experts highlight that this situation represents a complex issue. Workers who seek compensation must overcome various legal and practical obstacles, particularly in pursuing court remedies for contract breaches or less extreme abuse.
In addition to that, many workers have to face an administrative offense for leaving an employer without consent before the contract ends.
Reports also show that in some cases employers filed trumped-up theft charges against workers who fled.
According to workers’ depositions, migrants had to face further abuses if they turned to their recruitment agencies for help. Other migrants reveal that agents forced them to return to abusive employers, forcing them work for new families against their will, confined to their agency residence and deprived of food.
In this context, some labour-sending countries have established temporary bans on migration to the UAE for domestic work in recent years. Many countries as Philippines, in order to safeguard workers, allow their citizens to travel to the UAE as domestic workers only if their UAE employers and recruitment agencies agree to minimum salaries and conditions. Moreover, the Philippines has stressed that the new contract did not establish sufficient protection for migrant workers.
In this framework, experts call for stronger measures saying that countries need to cooperate together to require reforms in the UAE, reinforcing also their own protection measures. The UAE needs to make labour rights a reality at home, including for migrant domestic workers, in line with the ILO Domestic Workers Convention.
The gLAWcal Team
Friday, 24 October 2014