Risky recruitment of domestic workers is rife
Some agencies recruit them from home countries and bring them to the UAE on three-month tourist visa, on the promise of getting employed, which is an illegal practice
Most distressed maids are quite new to Dubai. They came here on a visit visa with the objective of looking for employment, even though the practice is illegal in the UAE.
The UAE is very attractive because the demand for maids is high and the manpower supply is low. There has been a shortage of 'reliable domestic help' after labour-exporting countries like the Philippines and Indonesia stopped deploying new maids back in 2014 and 2015 respectively. Some employers have resorted to the 'black market' to fill the gap, which resulted in paying higher fees to get a maid.
The main reason why maids run away from their employers, according to officials, is that they don't come through legitimate channels, so they are not made fully aware of their rights and responsibilities.
Philippine Consul-General Paul Raymund Cortes said some Filipino household service workers (HSWs) come on a visit visa and they look for jobs here. "If they encounter a problem, there is no recruitment agency that we can chase," he said.
"We usually obligate both the agencies in Manila and the agencies here, accredited by the POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Agency), to monitor the HSWs and work for the resolution of any case," Cortes said.
According to an organisation of domestic workers, unscrupulous travel agencies supply the maids illegally. The recruitment fee is very high and there is no proper monitoring system of the maid's situation, Nancy Alabata, president of Dubai Overseas Filipino Workers and founder of a group called Jebel Ali Village Nannies, said.
Explaining the modus operandi of the agencies, Alabata said: "Some agencies recruit them (maids) from home countries and bring them to the UAE on a three-month tourist visa with the promise of getting employed. To avoid scrutiny from Philippine immigration officials, most of the maids take a circuitous route, pretending to be tourists coming from Hong Kong or Singapore, then the final destination is Dubai."
"If they don't get employed after three months, they will be sent back and return on another tourist visa. The cost is initially shouldered by the agency but it will eventually be deducted from the maid's salary," Alabata explained.
The situation is vulnerable to exploitation. "Since the recruitment cost is very high, the employers would expect a lot. I know of an employer who told the maid to endure the hardship or if she opted to go out, she has to pay Dh15,000," Alabata added.
In a previous interview, Alabata shared a report their organisation received of an unnamed agency which has a throng of maids on standby waiting to be hired. Alabata said: "Potential maids come as staff of cleaning companies and then their employment status are changed here. The problem happens when there is a switch of employers as there is no monitoring system to check on the maids."
"The agencies earn from the maids. One domestic worker was hired on a Dh3,500 monthly salary, but the maid only received Dh1,000 every month, so the remaining Dh2,500 goes to the agency," Alabata revealed.
Alabata, who has been working as a maid for almost two decades, said she fully supports the new law on domestic workers. "Like any workers, we too need protection," she said.
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