Runaway maids increased in UAE during Ramadan
93 per cent of the 114 women arrived in the UAE on a visit visa
The number of distressed maids who ran away from their employers saw a worrying 50 per cent increase during Ramadan, top diplomats from the Philippines and Indonesia confirmed to Khaleej Times.
Cases cited were sickness, including heart and respiratory ailments reportedly brought about by overwork, maltreatment, verbal and physical abuse; insufficient food, unpaid salaries, long-working hours without sufficient rest; non-issuance of employment visa, and pre-existing illnesses.
"There was a spike or surge in the number of runaway domestic workers during the holy month of Ramadan period," Felicitas Bay, Philippine labour attaché to Dubai and Northern Emirates, told Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview.
"In March, around 60 women were sheltered at the POLO-MWOFRC (Philippine Overseas Labor Office - Migrant Workers and Other Overseas Filipinos Resource Centre) but last month, we had 114 housed at the centre," Bay said.
Most of the women are just new in Dubai - almost all of them came as visitors and looked for employment here. "The majority just arrived one month ago; some stayed with their employers for about five days and ran away," Bay noted.
"Of the 114 women at MWOFRC as of June 27, almost 93 per cent arrived in the UAE on a visit visa and only seven per cent entered with an employment visa. The longest length of stay at the centre is 11 months, because of a pending case and the shortest is just one day," she added.
Bay explained that the number fluctuates. "In a week, about 15 will be discharged or sent home -meaning, they will undergo regular process from POLO-MWOFRC to the airport for deportation (with endorsement from the Immigration). But 15 might leave, then 10 or more will arrive. At times, only two or three will depart, then six arrive at the centre," she enumerated.
According to POLO Dubai, around 460 women were sheltered at the MWOFRC in the first six months of this year.
Philippine Consul-General Paul Raymund Cortes noted that not only do domestic workers seek refuge at the centre, but also mothers with their children who hope that their problems will be resolved.
Indonesian Consul-General Arzaf Firman, meanwhile, did not give out numbers of maids staying at the consulate. He said: "What I can tell is that there is an increase in the number of people who look for assistance during Ramadan, hoping that they can return to Indonesia to celebrate Eid in their homeland with family. But the process sometimes takes longer than expected, so some of them get frustrated. We will help them, and some Indonesian expats (with a better life) also help with air tickets."
Both the Indonesian and Philippine diplomats are hoping for the immediate implementation of the draft law on the rights of domestic workers, approved during the 16th legislative session of the Federal National Council.
Firman earlier told Khaleej Times: "The law will secure the daily lives of domestic workers by protecting them from abuse and any acts of violence."
He added that Indonesia will soon lift the ban on the deployment of new household service workers to the UAE after the law is implemented.
Cortes also welcomed the passing of the draft law that will not just benefit the maids but also the house cooks, security guards, drivers, gardeners, and other household workers. "When laws are passed that allow people more liberties within the confines of their terms of employment, we contextualise our labour rules and regulations within the ambit of humanity and that is most certainly always a good thing," he added.
Among the salient features of the new law are providing a weekly day off; giving 30 days of annual paid leave; ensuring the right to retain personal documents including passport, ID card and work permit; providing daily rest of at least 12 hours, including eight hours of continuous break; and no discrimination on the basis race, colour, sex or religion.
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