WORK­ING LIKE ROBOTS

Tan­za­nian do­mes­tic work­ers in Mid­dle East beaten, sex­u­ally as­saulted and de­prived of pay

The New Age (Free State) - - INSIDE - EMMA BATHA LON­DON

African slaves in Mid­dle East

TAN­ZA­NIAN do­mes­tic work­ers in the Gulf are beaten, sex­u­ally as­saulted and de­prived of pay, rights cam­paign­ers said yes­ter­day as they called for an end to abu­sive em­ploy­ment rules.

Thou­sands of Tan­za­nian women work in the Mid­dle East, of­ten lured by prom­ises of salaries 10 times higher than they could earn at home.

But visa-spon­sor­ship rules in Oman and the United Arab Emi­rates, known as the kafala sys­tem, mean they can­not change jobs with­out their em­ployer’s con­sent and can be charged with “ab­scond­ing” if they flee, Hu­man Rights Watch said.

Most of the 50 women in­ter­viewed for a re­port called Work­ing Like a Robot were made to work 15 to 21 hours a day and had their pass­ports con­fis­cated, HRW said.

More than half were un­der­paid and some said they were not paid at all. Around two in five re­ported phys­i­cal abuse and the same pro­por­tion said they were sex­u­ally ha­rassed or as­saulted.

Nei­ther the Oman or UAE for­eign min­istries were im­me­di­ately avail­able for com­ment.

Most mi­grant do­mes­tic work­ers in the Gulf re­gion come from Asian coun­tries. But rights groups say re­cruiters are in­creas­ingly turn­ing to East Africa where pro­tec­tions are weaker. HRW said em­ploy­ers of­ten got away with pay­ing East Africans far less than Asians.

It called for re­form of the kafala sys­tem, the in­tro­duc­tion of a min­i­mum wage and an end to wage dis­crim­i­na­tion.

One Tan­za­nian woman em­ployed in Oman told re­searchers how her em­ploy­ers at­tacked her when she re­turned from hos­pi­tal af­ter faint­ing.

She said she was raped by her em­ployer af­ter be­ing stripped and beaten by two women in the fam­ily.

“They took the money I earned. I was scared, trau­ma­tised and didn’t know who to speak to,” she was quoted as say­ing.

An­other woman, who worked 17-hour days, said she fled af­ter be­ing sex­u­ally as­saulted.

But when she tried to file a com­plaint with the po­lice they told her she faced charges for run­ning away and said she must pay a fine of more than $500 (R7 200) or spend time in jail.

The re­port said Oman’s labour laws did not cover do­mes­tic work­ers, while pro­tec­tions be­ing in­tro­duced in UAE were weaker than those for other work­ers.

Rights group Anti-Slav­ery In­ter­na­tional said abuse was very com­mon and called on Tan­za­nian em­bassies to do much more to help ex­ploited work­ers.

“It is out­ra­geous that they are be­ing sent back to abu­sive sit­u­a­tions when they ask for help,” said spokesper­son Jakub So­bik. – Thomson Reuters Foun­da­tion

BEAR­ING THE BRUNT: Do­mes­tic work­ers work­ing in the Gulf re­gion re­late tales of hor­ri­ble work­ing con­di­tions.

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