Huge fines for any­one who hires an il­le­gal maid

7 Days in Dubai - - SPECIAL REPORT -

A fam­ily that hired an il­le­gal maid has de­scribed how they were hit with huge fines af­ter the author­i­ties found out. Egyp­tian housewife, Na­jila M, took on the do­mes­tic worker two years ago but re­grets breach­ing labour laws. She said: “I opted for a run­away maid af­ter I tried get­ting one from re­cruit­ing agen­cies and failed. They were too ex­pen­sive.” Re­cruit­ment agency fees range from Dhs5,500 to Dhs15,000, depend­ing on the maid’s na­tion­al­ity and ex­pe­ri­ence. But three months later, Na­jila found out that the maid was wanted by the author­i­ties for steal­ing money and other items from a for­mer em­ployer. Na­jila said: “I was forced to hand her over to author­i­ties and had to pay huge fines for em­ploy­ing a run­away house­maid. I will never do it again.” A Dubai Po­lice spokesman warned an em­ployer faces a fine of up to Dhs50,000 if they hire a maid listed as ab­sconded. “When they hire a per­son il­le­gally, they put them­selves as well as oth­ers in dan­ger,” he said. hys­i­cal abuse, a lack of ba­sic ameni­ties like food and the non-pay­ment of salaries are among some of the rea­sons why more than 9,000 do­mes­tic work­ers have fled their spon­sors, em­bassy of­fi­cials and lawyers have said.

Dubai Po­lice last month re­vealed that 9,751 do­mes­tic work­ers were listed ‘miss­ing’ as of May, hav­ing left their spon­sors.

7DAYS spoke to diplo­mats, lawyers rep­re­sent­ing low-paid work­ers in le­gal cases, maids them­selves and po­lice.

In some cases, do­mes­tic staff are found to have stolen posses­sions and run off. But, of­fi­cials say the ma­jor­ity flee be­cause of a lack of ba­sic, hu­man treat­ment.

Di­nesh Ku­mar, First Sec­re­tary at the In­dian Em­bassy, said: “We see at least 10 to 20 cases of run­away maids in a month.

“Most of the maids run away be­cause they feel ha­rassed, are given more work than they can han­dle, given work that they didn’t ex­pect and are not given suf­fi­cient rest time.”

Ku­mar said the em­bassy helps run­away maids through the In­dian Com­mu­nity Wel­fare Fund, set up by the In­dian gov­ern­ment and given mil­lions of dol­lars to en­sure the rights of its cit­i­zens abroad.

In some cases the em­bassy is in­volved with re­spond­ing to spon­sors who have filed le­gal cases against ab­scond­ing staff.

Ku­mar added: “If they do not have their pass­port, we get them an emer­gency cer­tifi­cate, air tick­ets and a shel­ter if they need it for a few days.

“If their spon­sor files a case against them for ab­scond­ing we help them with the pro­ce­dure to go through the de­por­ta­tion cen­tre.”

Among those who left their em­ployer was Hal­ima N, 22, from Uganda.

She told 7DAYS that she was hired by a re­cruit­ment agency in Aj­man in July 2015 and sent to work for an Ira­nian fam­ily in Shar­jah.

But one month in, she says, the fam­ily flew to their home coun­try for the sum­mer – leav­ing her with no food or money.

She said: “The fam­ily spent more than three months in Iran, leav­ing me alone keep­ing the house. I didn’t get any pay in those months, no food – noth­ing.”

Dubai lawyer Bar­ney Al­mazar, Di­rec­tor at Gulf Law, who also as­sists the Philip­pines Em­bassy in labour cases, said: “We had a case where a maid was asked to pay Dhs150 for us­ing the in­ter­net and also not given any toi­letries or ba­sic ameni­ties, al­though her con­tract said all of this would be pro­vided.

“Some run­away maids have said their em­ploy­ers con­fis­cated their phones to avoid com­mu­ni­ca­tion with other peo­ple and locked them in­side the house when they went on va­ca­tion.”

He con­tin­ued: “In cases where the em­ployer has not legally spon­sored the maid, they take ad­van­tage of the fact that the maid can­not go to the po­lice, so they are most vul­ner­a­ble to abuse and we see a lot of such cases.

“The em­bassy pro­vides shel­ter to these maids un­til their cases are re­solved and also pro­vides air tick­ets back home when nec­es­sary.”

Al­mazar said do­mes­tic staff flee­ing abuse or non-pay­ment are not pe­nalised by the author­i­ties for ab­scond­ing.

ON THE RUN: Many maids have had no choice but to flee be­cause of their treat­ment

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